So, let's get this straight: The New York Times is reporting that Al Jazeera is close to buying a network which they say no one watches because, umm, "Current will provide ... a pathway into American living rooms." Hmm. We're still not sure how much the surging, Doha-based news organization will pay for Al Gore's flailing, left-leaning Current TV. But we're pretty sure there is a difference between people tuning in to a channel... and just having it available somewhere on your dial. Seriously, how many channel numbers between HGTV and the Food Network do you actually remember? No cheating. Fine, fine, we kid.
"Current is available in about 60 million of the 100 million homes in the United States with cable or satellite service," reports The Times's Brian Stelter, which (with apologies to Joy Behar and Eliot Spitzer) is apparently Current's strongest selling point. The New York Post's team of Claire Atkinson and Emily Smith confirmed as much in late October, when news of the network's intention to sell itself first surfaced. "On a typical night in 2012 about 42,000 people were watching the channel, according to Nielsen," reports Stelter. To put that sorry number in perspective, during her post-election surge Rachel Maddow had 1.38 million viewers on December 19 — or triple all of Current TV. "[Current] gets about 12 cents a subscriber from pay-TV operators that carry it, or around $82 million last year," reported The Post. "Ad revenue [in 2011] was estimated at just $16.9 million."
So what can we expect? More Behar and Spitzer? Not exactly, Stelter reports:
Rather than simply use Current to distribute its existing English-language channel, called Al Jazeera English and based in Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera will create a new channel based in New York, according to people with knowledge of the deal negotiations. Potentially called Al Jazeera America, roughly 60 percent of the programming will be produced in the United States while the remaining 40 percent will come from Al Jazeera English.