Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network has confirmed it has acquired seven-year-old US cable channel Current TV to launch news channel Al Jazeera America.
Terms were undisclosed, but Reuters estimated the deal could be worth as much as US$500m.
The deal gives the news network a footprint of more than 40 million US households, up from 4.7 million that Al Jazeera had prior to the deal.
However, despite reaching 260 million homes in 130 countries outside the US, Al Jazeera faces an uphill struggle with US distributors and viewers due to preconceptions about the Arab-owned network, according to TV analysts.
Nevertheless, Al Jazeera said it would open more news bureaus across the US following the deal, adding to those already in New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, and will double its US-based staff to more than 300 employees.
“For many years, we understood that we could make a positive contribution to the news and information available in and about the United States and what we are announcing today will help us achieve that goal,” said Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera.
“By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the US, as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America.”
Al Jazeera America will co-exist with Al Jazeera English, which is already on air in a few US cities. The new channel is scheduled to begin broadcasting later this year.
Liberal-leaning Current was launched in 2005 by chairman Al Gore and CEO Joel Hyatt but has always faces ratings issues. Time Warner Cable said it will be dropping the channel and the UK version was closed last year.