Al Jazeera's purchase of Current TV will end Al Gore's liberal-minded station and give the Qatar-financed network access to 60 million U.S. homes for the first time.
In a statement, founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt said that they are "proud and pleased" by the takeover, noting that the two news agencies share similar goals. Al Jazeera plans to discontinue Current's programming — including a primetime lineup of liberal hosts — and replace it with its own broadcasts.
No purchase price was disclosed, but The New York Times cited people with direct knowledge of the deal who said it was $500 million. That would mean a $100 million payout for the former vice president, the paper said.
Al Jazeera has long claimed independence from Qatar, saying it is much more than a propaganda arm for the small Middle Eastern country. Its efforts to build its journalistic reputation have been hindered by accusations of the Qatari royal family meddling in its coverage.
"We are proud and pleased that Al Jazeera, the award-winning international news organization, has bought Current TV," Gore and Hyatt said in a statement provided to TheWrap. "Since its founding in 2005, Current has grown into a national network available in nearly 60 million homes, offering thought-provoking commentary and Emmy and Peabody award-winning programming."
However, the newly purchased Current TV won't be seen by customers of Time Warner Cable. The cable carrier said Wednesday that it is terminating its carriage agreement with Current "as quickly as possible."
Current TV launched in 2005 with the goal of providing a progressive, independent voice in cable news. It has since assembled a liberal-minded primetime lineup, made up largely of personalities who came from other networks. Its most ambitious effort — recruiting Keith Olbermann — flamed out when the former MSNBC host failed, as he tends to do, to get along with his new bosses.
Olbermann's exit left others to try to meet the higher ratings he was expected to bring. But the rest of Current's personalities — including former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and ex-CNN host and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer — struggled for audiences.
Al Jazeera, meanwhile, sought a larger U.S. audience. Al Jazeera is now available in only a few U.S. cities, including New York and Washington, but would establish a new U.S. channel based in New York, according to The New York Times. It would provide about 60 percent of the network's coverage, with the rest coming from Al Jazeera English, the network's existing English-language channel, the newspaper said.
Though Current's prospective buyer is a surprise, the possibility of a sale is not. Hyatt said in October that Current has had three inquiries from prospective buyers in the past year, and that it was weighing its options.