UPDATE 1-Al Jazeera buys Current TV, terms undisclosed
LOS ANGELES, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel said on Wednesday it will buy Current TV, the low-rated cable channel founded by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt in 2005, in a move that will boost its U.S. footprint.
Terms were undisclosed, but analysts estimated the deal could be worth as much as $500 million.
The deal brings Al Jazeera, which operates under the patronage of the emir of Qatar and his family, into closer competition with American news channels like CNN, MSNBC and Fox.
Al Jazeera said it would start a new U.S.-based news channel with the acquisition of Current TV. The deal will m ake A l Jazeera av ailable in more than 40 million American households, up from 4.7 million prior to the deal, i t said.
But the award-winning channel that is seen in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries still faces hurdles with U.S. distributors and viewers, television industry analysts said.
Current, which has battled low viewership, had been distributed in about 60 million of the 100 million homes in the United States with cable or satellite service.
One of its distributors, Time Warner Cable, which accounted for about 12 million of those homes, announced late Wednesday it was terminating its carriage deal.
"Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible," Time Warner Cable said in a statement.
A spokesperson was unavailable to elaborate. Current is also distributed by Comcast Corp and DirecTV, with 22.4 million and 19.8 million subscribers, respectively.
Comcast or DirecTV were either unavailable or declined comment.
Both Comcast and DirecTV also hold equity stakes of more than 5 percent in Current, according to public fillings.
Current said Gore, its chairman, and Hyatt, the chief executive officer, will remain on the advisory board.
"We are proud and pleased that Al Jazeera, the award-winning international news organization, has bought Current TV," the co-founders said in a statement.
"Al Jazeera, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us," they said.