Media mogul Patrick Drahi is venturing into the risky arena of 24/7 cable news with plans to launch a U.S. offshoot of his i24 News channel already operating in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Drahi’s Altice USA owns the U.S.’s fourth-largest cable operator through the acquisitions of Cablevision Systems and Suddenlink during the past two years. The i24 News channel, emphasizing international news and global concerns, will be carried on the Altice USA systems starting Feb. 13.
Altice said the U.S. channel would be headquartered in New York with a bureau in Washington, D.C. The company expects to hire about 50 journalists to staff the network.
“What began as a dream of our founder to create a source for news where debate and multiple perspectives were welcome, has become i24 News – a well-respected, differentiated global news organization with a track record of journalistic excellence around the world,” said Dexter Goei, president of Altice and and chairman and CEO of Altice USA. “Content is core to Altice’s global strategy, and this is an exciting step as we bring i24 News to the U.S. and provide refreshing, balanced content that will offer a new perspective on domestic and international news that consumers cannot watch anywhere else.”
Altice’s plan recalls the ambitious effort mounted in 2013 by Al Jazeera to break into the cable news race with, first buy buying Current TV for a whopping $500 million. Al Jazeera poured money into Al Jazeera America for nearly three years before the plug was hastily pulled last April.
Al Jazeera battled a specific image problems because of the parent company’s association in the minds of many Americans with terrorist groups and the 9/11 attacks. Alitice’s i24 News will face a challenging market to secure additional distribution beyond Altice USA, which has about 4.6 million subscribers.
The existing i24 News is based in Tel Aviv and broadcasts in English, French and Arabic. Altice emphasized that it will be the only news network with its headquarters in the Middle East.
“In a society where everything has global implications – from politics and healthcare to education and security – i24 News in the U.S. will provide a new voice as it melds different points of view with everyday developments,” said Frank Melloul, CEO of i24 News.