Al Jazeera network announced Thursday that it acquired the U.S. cable channel Current TV as part of its plans to launch Al Jazeera America. The purchase helps the Qatar-based network boost its reach in the U.S. nearly nine-fold to about 40 million homes.
The deal brings Al Jazeera into stiff competition with American news channels such as the CNN, MSNBC and Fox. The Pan-Arab news channel with a significant presence in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries had a limited reach of 4.7 million homes in the U.S. prior to the deal.
In addition to the existing Al Jazeera news bureaus in New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, Al Jazeera will open additional bureaus in key locations across the U.S., a report in Al Jazeera said. The channel’s U.S.-based staff is expected to double to more than 300 employees.
“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,” Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera, said in a statement.
Following the acquisition confirmation Wednesday, Time Warner Cable announced that it would drop Current TV, which has been struggling with low ratings.
A Time Warner Cable spokesman said in a statement that "our agreement with Current will be terminated and we will no longer be carrying the channel," the Huffington Post reported.
Though the announcement came within hours of the Al Jazeera deal, Time Warner had previously stated that it would drop Current TV due to low ratings.
Prior to its acquisition by Al Jazeera, Current TV was available in 60 million homes, according to the Associated Press.
Current TV, founded in 2005 by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and business partner Joel Hyatt, was mired in controversy with the hiring and the subsequent firing of former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann and the 2009 detention of two Current TV journalists in North Korea.
Olbermann, the feisty host of the talk show "Countdown," was fired from Current TV in March last year, barely a year after he was hired, and he was replaced by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
Olbermann sued the network for more than $50 million in May and slammed its co-founder Joel Hyatt and network president David Borman, claiming they were responsible for many of his show's problems.
The appointment of Spitzer, another outspoken news host, led to speculation among Time Warner Cable executives that the network was resorting to controversies to improve ratings.
Two journalists working for the company were detained in North Korea in March 2009 while working on a story near the border between China and North Korea and were sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp. They were released the same year following a visit to Pyongyang by former President Bill Clinton.
"We are proud and pleased that Al Jazeera, the award-winning international news organization, has bought Current TV," Gore and Hyatt said in a press release.