Thursday, January 3, 2013

Morning Brief: Al Jazeera to buy Current TV, gaining foothold in U.S. market; Time Warner uses sale as excuse to drop Current and prevent Al Jazeera's appearance

During the Arab spring Al Jazeera English was an indispensable news outlet for those trying to stay informed on events in Egypt and other countries. The problem was that Al Jazeera was mostly missing from the television screens of most Americans.

In February of 2011, for example, TNM reported on the soaring web traffic the Qatar-based network had enjoyed thanks to its coverage. Later in April the network released its first iPad application, again in hopes of reaching Americans hungry for better news coverage of events in the Arab world.

Now the network has made its own news with the acquisition of Current TV, the low rated cable channel founded by former vice president Al Gore. The acquisition and launch of Al Jazeera America will mean that the network will now be available to 40 million U.S. households, where as it reached only 4.7 million households presently.

"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," Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera, said in a statement.

"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."

"Current Media was built based on a few key goals: To give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling," Al Gore and partner Joel Hyatt said in their own sale announcement.

"Al Jazeera has the same goals and, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us."

The New York Times is reporting that the deal was valued at $500 million (Al Gore owns 20 percent of the network being sold).
Al Jazeera had bene trying to break into the U.S. market for years but had run into trouble convincing cable networks to carry the channel. Unfortunately, this move may not be enough to guarantee that Al Jazeera will actually reach U.S. TV viewers.

Late yesterday Time Warner used news of the sale to immediately drop Current TV from its offerings saying in a statement that "our agreement with Current will be terminated and we will no longer be carrying the channel."

Let me among the first to say that Time Warner's move calls into question the company's own commitment to its viewers (and I can also say I am glad not to be a customer of the cable company).

Lee Enterprises this morning released an update to its Post-Dispatch Baseball for iPad. The update brings the app up to iOS 6 compliance.

The app description says "Follow the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals on their 2012 campaign to repeat their miracle season with the Hall of Fame coverage from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Stltoday."

I suppose it would be a shame to tell the folks at the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the 2012 season is over and their team, the Cardinals, did not successfully defend their title – though I think there are those at the paper that know this. Maybe they should tell their app development team.