Al Arabiya TV, the Saudi-owned satellite TV channel, takes a look at its Qatari-owned competition, Al-Jazeera TV. It looks specifically at Al-Jazeera’s purchase of Current TV, a progressive channel co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore and wonders if this makes any sense.

The article notes that because it is state-sponsored, Al-Jazeera doesn’t have the profit-making pressures that other news channels have. Profits are one thing; political influence is another. What made the Current TV purchase attractive, the article notes, is that that channel already had distribution in the US, something that Al-Jazeera has been struggling to get. Current TV, though, was pretty much a flop. In the latest ratings, it could claim only 42K prime-time viewers, compared to millions watching CNN or FOX. What’s more, just because cable networks carried Current TV was no guarantee that they would carry its new owner, Al-Jazeera. Indeed, within hours of the purchase, Time-Warner Cable dropped Current TV from its lineup.

The article may be self-serving on the part of Al Arabiya; it is in competition with Al-Jazeera. Further, there’s always been a certain amount of friction and bickering between Saudis and Qataris on many fronts. The purchase is clearly a gamble, though. I’m sure the Saudis would like to see it fail, both to thumb their noses at Qatar and to have a competitor shoot itself in the foot.

Al Jazeera’s $500m ‘American Dream’ … a risky gamble?
AL ARABIYA

Al Jazeera’s hefty investment in a flagging U.S. television network has left many stuck for the answer to a simple question: Why?

The immediate reaction of many observers who have written about this was that it goes in line with general Qatari preoccupation with “buying influence” and exposure.

As such, if a non-profit state-backed organization such as Qatar Foundation was happy to throw away 150 million Euros to sponsor a Spanish soccer team (Barcelona FC) back in 2010 (with no real benefit from the exposure for the non-profit organization); it was certainly not a surprise to many when the Qatari state-funded broadcaster said earlier this month that it would buy Current TV, which was cofounded by former American vice-president Al Gore in 2005, for a whopping $500 million.

That price tag left many commentators aghast, not least because the left-leaning U.S. network had for some time struggled with low ratings, boasting a prime-time audience of just 42,000 in the fourth quarter of 2012.


January:19:2013 - 09:02 | Comments & Trackbacks (5) | Permalink
5 Responses to “Checking Out the Competition”
  1. 1
    Jerry M Said:
    January:19:2013 - 15:56 

    I would love to know what kind of agreements Current has with cable and satellite providers as to who carries it if ownership and/or programming changes. I assume Al Jazeera has hired competent attorneys before signing on the bottom line.

    I cannot imagine this network doing very well in the US. It is too bad they could not find networks willing to carry them. I would certainly have given them a look. In the current enviroment I assume they will bleed money.

  2. 2
    John Burgess Said:
    January:19:2013 - 18:21 

    @Jerry M: Al-Jazeera a a very good web presence, including a channel on YouTube that is constantly being updated. The article has an analyst wondering why they’re spending so much money to compete against themselves.

  3. 3
    Chris Said:
    January:20:2013 - 09:18 

    Buying influence.
    Al Gore and his friends poured a lot of their own money into Current TV and now want out because they produced programs that no one wanted to watch. Al Gore and his friends get a nice profit, Qatar buys new democrat friends on the hill.
    They hosted the climate summit for similar reasons.

  4. 4
    Jerry M Said:
    January:21:2013 - 13:28 

    @Chris

    I certainly think the Current TV story is scandalous. Gore and his friends’ network was only carried because they had influence in Washington. Now they are getting richer courtesy of a foreign potentate.

    Gore has often been a bit holier than though so perhaps it is fun to see him as a simple self-promoter.

  5. 5
    Chris Said:
    January:26:2013 - 03:09 

    @Jerry M

    I don’t see Gore as a simple self-promoter, he isn’t simple.

    I see him as a politician who has found a nice way to make lots of money off the tax payers whist projecting an image of being selfless. Rather like some TV evangelists.

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