Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network is acquiring the flagging American cable channel Current TV and has announced plans to replace it with its own US-focused news channel.
Expected to come on air later this year, the channel being referred to as Al Jazeera America will be headquartered in New York.
It’s clear one of the main aims of buying Current TV was to get access to its wide US distribution networks. Al Jazeera, which is funded by the government of Qatar, has struggled over the last six years to reach US television viewers.
“By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the U.S., as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America,” Al Jazeera’s Director General Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani said in a released statement.
While Comcast, DirecTV, Dish network and others Current TV carriers have made no public statements about Al Jazeera America yet, major cable network Time Warner Cable announced late on Wednesday that it was ending its distribution of Current TV.
New York Times’ media blogger Brian Stelter, who broke the news on Wednesday hours before Al Jazeera announced the deal, says the acquisition likely cost around $500 million.
This is hardly Al Jazeera’s first foray into the United States. When Al Jazeera English launched in 2006, a core aim of the channel was to reach an American audience, and the network says at least 40 percent of its online traffic comes from the US.
Al Jazeera also launched an English-language sports channel in the US last August called beIN Sport.