New Orleans -- In a deal that was two years in the works, former Vice President Al Gore is acquiring Newsworld International, a global-news channel, and he plans to transform it into a nonfiction, issue-oriented outlet for young viewers.
During a press conference at the National Show here Tuesday, Gore immediately denied past reports that he planned to turn NWI -- which he is buying for an undisclosed sum from Vivendi Universal Entertainment -- into a politically liberal network.
“This is not going to be a liberal network or a Democratic network or a political network in any way, shape or form,” Gore told reporters. “It is going to be an exciting television home for young people in their 20s who want to learn more about the world and hear real-life stories about the world -- and about their lives -- in a voice that they recognize from a point of view that they identify as their own.”
As an independent programmer without the backing of any major media companies, Gore will face an uphill battle increasing distribution for NWI, which now has 17 million subscribers.
At least one cable operator also suggested that the industry hasn’t forgotten Gore’s part in cable regulation in 1992 and his past cable bashing.
Gore was undaunted by the obstacles. “We understand that we’re rookies,” he said. “We understand how hard this is.”
Gore and entrepreneur Joel Hyatt have formed a media company called INdTV Holdings LLC in order to acquire NWI. The company is getting funding from several venture-capital firms, as well as individual investors including former AOL Time Warner Inc. chief operating officer Bob Pittman and Warren Lieberfarb, former president of Warner Home Video.
Gore and Hyatt were sketchy about their programming plans for NWI, which they plan to rename and relaunch. For the time being, the network will continue to air news and information programming from Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Gore said.
Both Gore and Hyatt stressed that their target demographic is 18- to 34-year-olds, and that this audience will help to create NWI’s content.
“It is going to have programming in the subjects that young people care about, whether that’s the current events -- the issues of the day, but in a voice they recognize, or because it will be their own voice -- whether it’s careers, relationships, the culture in which they live,” Hyatt said.
“All of these are going to be subject matters,” he added. “The documentary is a format we’ll use. We’re going to use the comedic format. We think a great way to discuss important issues is by being funny. We’re going to be irreverent. We’re going to be bold.”
NWI is profitable now, and INdTV has raised enough money not only to buy the network, but to create new programming for it, according to Hyatt.
“We are going to be investing in the development of new programming and marketing,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of investment to execute our strategic plan.”
NWI is currently carried by direct-broadcast satellite provider DirecTV Inc. Time Warner Cable also offers the network to 5 million subscribers, including carriage in Manhattan. And Comcast Corp. carries NWI in some markets, including the San Francisco Bay area.
Gore said he has completely abandoned politics and will devote himself to NWI.
“I will be extremely active in this venture,” he added. “I don’t expect to ever be a candidate for office again. I’m really enjoying life after politics.
Gore made much of the fact that, in a world of media consolidation, NWI will be an independent network. “Having independent voices -- particularly in news and information, current affairs, real-life stories about our world -- is a very important value to safeguard,” he said.
Hyatt will serve as CEO of INdTV, while Gore will chair the company.
Hyatt’s created Hyatt Legal Services, which provided low-cost services to middle- and lower-income families and grew to serve 3 million clients. Hyatt’s Hyatt Legal Plans, acquired by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., became America’s largest provider of employer-sponsored group legal plans.
Mark Goldman, a veteran of News Corp. and its Sky Latin America Partners, will be COO of the new company.
INdTV’s advisory board will include Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs and Orville Schell, dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism.