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Al Jazeera to Put Current TV Out of Its Misery

Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore speaks onstage at Sean Parker Presentation during the 2012 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center on March 12, 2012 in Austin, Texas.
Photo: Heather Kennedy/WireImage

It’s been no secret that the low-rated progressive network founded by Al Gore was a failed experiment in need of a buyer and now Al Jazeera sees an opening, the New York Times reports. The Qatar-based (and government-backed) network is close to a deal to buy Current TV, according to reporter Brian Stelter, although Al Jazeera is interested not in the network’s programming, but in its cable distribution: “Al Jazeera may absorb some Current TV staff members, according to the people, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But Current’s schedule of shows will most likely be dissolved in the spring.”

Current host Eliot Spizter might just be pleased. “Nobody’s watching, but I’m having a great time,” said the former New York governor last month. “Somebody needs to buy the network.” Spitzer replaced Keith Olbermann, once positioned as Current’s programming centerpiece, after he was fired in an epic shitstorm for the network. (Also featured on the San Francisco-based channel are Joy Behar, Jennifer Granholm, and Gavin Newsom, in case you haven’t been keeping up.)

This year alone, we have had three inquiries,” said Current CEO and cofounder Joel Hyatt earlier this year, practically begging for more offers. “As a consequence, we thought it might be useful to engage expertise to help us evaluate our strategic options.”

While Current may not have viewers, what it does have are the means into about 60 million American living rooms, the Times notes. Al Jazeera English, the news broadcaster’s attempt at arriving stateside, has failed to catch on in the U.S. — thanks in part to lingering negative associations with its Arab roots — and has struggled with distribution, but could work to rebrand with the help of the Current platform. “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,” according to the Times. The percentage of that programming to star any of the Current personalities you may or may not know and/or love will presumably be far, far smaller.

Update: Fast-working Time Warner Cable announced after the sale became public that it would be pulling Current from its service in New York, and the channel is already gone. Business Insider’s Joe Wiesenthal was doing an interview on Current and managed to pin down the time it disappeared from the airwaves: “My hit was at 8:15, and apparently the network was pulled at 8:09.”

Al Jazeera to Put Current TV Out of Its Misery