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Cable Technology Feature Article

January 07, 2013

Time Warner Drops Current TV after Al Jazeera Purchase

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Current TV's history has proven a bit rocky. It was recently bought out by the Al Jazeera network, which hasn't proven popular on several fronts. Time Warner (News - Alert) expressed sufficient outrage at the sale, removing Current TV from its lineup upon the completion of the Al Jazeera purchase.

It took Time Warner just hours to pull Al Jazeera's new purchase, replacing the Current TV feed with a simple on-screen text block reading “This channel is no longer available on Time Warner Cable.” This puts a significant kink into Al Jazeera's plans to get into the American cable market with the news network Al Jazeera America, as Current TV had a maximum reach of 40 million households. But with the removal of Time Warner from consideration, that number is cut by nearly a third, as Time Warner Cable's 12 million households are now lost to Al Jazeera.

As for the reason behind Time Warner's dropping of Current TV, the official word from the company was simply, “Our agreement with Current will be terminated and we will no longer be carrying the channel.” A memo from Current TV co-founder Joel Hyatt said Time Warner Cable “did not consent to the sale to Al Jazeera,” though Hyatt expressed confidence that “Al Jazeera America will earn significant carriage in the months and years ahead.”

Reaction to the Time Warner move is mixed to say the least. Some believe that Time Warner's decision was largely a political matter, with Time Warner not wanting to appear affiliated with Al Jazeera. But word had emerged that, as far back as April of 2012, Time Warner was looking to drop Current TV thanks to its low ratings in the space. With Al Jazeera recently winning awards over its coverage of the Arab Spring riots and gaining the accompanying credibility that comes with awards, it's easy to see why some may be looking askance at Time Warner's move to preemptively drop Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera, meanwhile, is planning to double its United States staff to fully 300 and headquarter itself in New York City, as it expects to have access to several other carriage agreements, including those with DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast (News - Alert) and several others.

Regardless of the motives behind Time Warner's hesitation in hosting Al Jazeera America, it's clear that it’ll be starting off 2013 on a bad footing. It will still have a pretty substantial audience awaiting them, and if it can pull some sound numbers in the smaller pool it’ll start in, it's a fair bet it can take those numbers to Time Warner and make a case to come back. Nothing succeeds like success, after all, and if Al Jazeera America can put up big numbers, it will be hard for Time Warner to ignore.

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Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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