Al Jazeera’s announced plans to establish a new U.S. cable news channel via the purchase of Current TV isn’t even 48 hours old and already it finds itself in a vicious battle to retain distribution rights.
Al Jazeera’s acquisition of Current TV is basically a pay-for-distribution play. The Qatar-backed network plans to replace Current TV in the more than 40 million homes where it is currently distributed with its own news network, tentatively dubbed Al Jazeera America. The new network’s success is predicated on maintaining, if not increasing, that level of distribution.
One person with knowledge of cable TV deals said pay-TV operators will definitely seek more favorable terms from Al Jazeera since, “no one wanted to carry Current TV and they want to carry an Al Jazeera channel even less.”
For instance upon learning of deal, which closed on Wednesday, Time Warner Cable immediately said that it would terminate its contract with Current TV, meaning its customers would not be seeing the new network to be named Al Jazeera America.
On Thursday, however, the company, which ranks as the nation’s second largest cable provider with 12 million subscribers, walked back from that stance a bit.
“We are keeping an open mind, and as the service develops, we will evaluate whether it makes sense, for our customers, to launch the network,” Time Warner Cable said in a statement.