Current TV’s New Owners Don’t Need Ratings: They Have Money
In a belated but marvelous Christmas present to Roger Ailes, pan-Arab news broadcaster Al Jazeera on Wednesday announced its purchase of Current TV, the cable news network founded by Al Gore. The result—technically called “Al Jazeera America” but instantly dubbed “Al GoreZEERA” by the Internet—stands to revolutionize cable news programming, fusing the massive wealth and global orientation of Al Jazeera with the spunky, left-wing politics of Current.
Unfortunately, we may never know how this exciting new venture pans out. Because no one will be watching.
No one is currently watching Al Jazeera in the United States because it is impossible to find on television. Despite years of trying, the Doha-based network financed by the Emir of Qatar has not been able to win carriage from any major U.S. cable providers. Current has a spot on the dial, hence its appeal. At the time of the sale, the vice president’s network was available in around 60 million U.S. homes.
Alas, none of them are tuning in to Current either. The network drew around 42,000 prime time viewers on an average night in 2012, according to Nielsen. That is less than 10 percent of CNN’s primetime audience and less than one percent of the number of viewers who watched ABC’s cross-dressing comedy “Work It” before it was cancelled after two episodes last fall. Many of Current’s carriage agreements will expire in the next few years, and these low ratings mean the network’s prospects for renewal are grim. This sneaky Al Jazeera move won’t help matters. Before the deal, Current was on Time Warner Cable’s list of networks it might drop. After The New York Times broke the news of the deal on Wednesday, Time Warner pulled Current off the air immediately