After months of false starts, former Vice President Al Gore and legal services entrepreneur Joel Hyatt are in the cable business.
The pair have acquired Vivendi Universal Entertainment's news diginet Newsworld International and plan to relaunch it as a network for 20-something viewers.
Gore insisted he wasn't starting the Air America of cable. "This is not going to be a liberal network or a Democratic network or a political network in any way," he said Tuesday at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention in New Orleans.
Still, Gore also said that "the trend toward consolidation in this industry needs to be countered by independent voices."
Gore, who will be chairman of the board, and Hyatt, the network's CEO, would not comment on the price, but earlier reports put the asking price in the $70 million range. NWI, mostly repackaged news from international news outlets, prominently the CBC, comes with 17 million subscribers, including deals with Direct TV, Time Warner and Comcast.
Hyatt said the unnamed network will program documentary and non-scripted shows on current events, careers and relationships with a 20-something point of view. Some of the content may come from some of those same young people (which should help keep some programming costs down.)
Gore and Hyatt played up their status as an independently-owned network, but independent networks have a tougher road to getting distribution than channels with big media parents. Gore may not have too many friends in the cable industry.
He was a major force in pushing harsh regulation of cable rates in 1992 and does not have many -- if any -- fans at the senior ranks of cable operators whose favor he must curry to secure additional distribution.