Qatar-based Al Jazeera is in final negotiations to acquire Current TV, the cable channel co-founded and operated by former Vice President Al Gore and his business partner Joel Hyatt, according to Brian Stelter in the New York Times. Current TV has distribution in 60 million homes, giving Al Jazeera a large and immediate U.S. footprint
The result will be a new channel, not simply a simulcast of Al Jazeera English, the company’s English-language cable news outlet. As for Current TV’s current slate of staffers and shows, the future remains unclear, but likely grim.
Rather than simply use Current to distribute its existing English-language channel, called Al Jazeera English and based in Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera will create a new channel based in New York, according to people with knowledge of the deal negotiations. Potentially called Al Jazeera America, roughly 60 percent of the programming will be produced in the United States while the remaining 40 percent will come from Al Jazeera English.
Al Jazeera may absorb some Current TV staff members, according to the people, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But Current’s schedule of shows will most likely be dissolved in the spring.
Current has struggled heavily in the ratings throughout its existence, even moreso since firing liberal firebrand Keith Olbermann earlier this year. In October word trickled out that the channel was on the block, resulting in host Eliot Spitzer quipping:
“Nobody’s watching,” he says, “but I’m having a great time. It’s like having a cocktail party with friends every night.”