Current TV, the small cable news channel that was co-founded by former vice president Al Gore, has been sold to Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based media company.
The acquisition gives Al Jazeera, which is funded by the Qatar government, the opportunity to establish a footprint in the United States, where it already has an English-language version of its Qatar service -- called Al Jazeera English -- but only limited reach.
Just buying Current does not guarantee instant distribution, however. Time Warner Cable, which offered Current in roughly 10 million of its homes, is dropping the channel. Without Time Warner Cable, which is the largest distributor in New York City and Los Angeles, Current TV is in only about 50 million homes.
Typically, when a cable network is sold or changes its programming direction, distributors can renegotiate their deals. It is possible that other distributors that carry Current may see the sale as an opportunity to drop a low-rated channel that is fairly expensive in proportion to its ratings. According to SNL Kagan, an industry consulting firm, Current TV costs about 12 cents, per subscriber, per month.