By Daniel Shane
Qatari broadcaster gears up to launch in US following US$500m Current TV buy
Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera is reportedly eyeing the former headquarters of the New York Times newspaper as it prepares to expand into the US, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Doha-based network is due to launch operations on the other side of the Atlantic following the acquisition of Al Gore’s Current TV for US$500m in January. The move will see Current TV rebranded as Al Jazeera America.
Citing people familiar with the matter, the WSJ said that Qatar gov’t-owned Al Jazeera had hired real estate services provider CBRE to assist with its search for a new home in New York.
The iconic former NY Times building, located at 229 W. 43rd St., is said to be one of a number of properties being considered by Al Jazeera. The network is said to find the location appealing as it is already setup for digital media distribution, although the paper reported that architectural constraints could put off the broadcaster.
At present, Al Jazeera is reportedly renting temporary studio space in Manhattan for its crew of about 150 people, as lays the ground work for its formal launch in the country.
Earlier this week, former US vice president Gore defended the decision to sell Current TV, the US broadcaster he founded, to Qatar’s Al Jazeera in a deal thought to be worth US$500m.
Speaking at a panel debate at the South by Southwest event in Texas, Gore claimed that the sale would “raise the game for television journalism” in the US.
His comments came days after media consultant John Terenzio filed legal action against Gore, who was US vice president from 1993 to 2001. Terenzio claimed that the idea of selling Current TV to Al Jazeera was his and that he had neither been notified of, nor compensated by the transaction.
Current TV is broadcast in around 60m of the 100m homes in the US with cable or satellite service. Comcast Corp and DirecTV, with 22.4m and 19.8m subscribers, respectively, both distribute Current.
Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera is wholly-owned by the Qatari government but maintains it holds editorial independence. In 2010 cable disclosed by whistle blower site Wikileaks, the US Embassy in Doha alleged that the station was being used a tool for Qatar foreign policy.