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Al Gore & Co. Purchase Cable Network

INdTV Holdings, LLC a newly formed media company led by former U.S. vp Al Gore and successful entrepreneur Joel Hyatt, acquired Newsworld International (NWI) from Vivendi Universal Entertainment for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition was announced during the annual NCTA convention in New Orleans. NWI will be developed by its new owners into an independent network offering innovative alternative programming created by and for a target audience of 18-34 year-olds.

"We are launching an exciting television network for young men and women who want to know more about their world and who enjoy real-life stories created with, by and for their own generation," said Gore who will serve as chairman of the board, will devote the lion's share of his time to the venture. "We want to empower this dynamic generation with a network dedicated to them that has integrity and a commitment to excellence. This will not be a political network," Gore emphasized, adding, "These stories will be in a voice that young people recognize and from a point of view they identify as their own."

"Having learned from both the successes and failures of other cable networks, we are confident this is a winning concept, Hyatt added. As for its content, we aspire to what Orson Welles once said, 'Don't give them what you think they want give them what they never thought was possible.' We are building a truly independent media company which will share the power of the television platform, enabling young people to contribute in significant ways to the creation of the content they consume."

They said during the convention they plan to offer a mix of documentary, comedy and other unprecedented formats would be created by the Gore team to address current events in an engaging fashion to the core audience.

NWI, a 24-hour channel dedicated to global news produced by The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., has earned a reputation for journalistic excellence and a comprehensive perspective on daily world happenings. Following its acquisition by INdTV, NWI's programming will continue to be provided by CBC. NWI is distributed to some 17 million subscriber households across the U.S. through DirecTV's most popular "Total Choice" tier, Time Warner Cable's most widely distributed digital tier, as well as Comcast systems in key markets and other cable operators.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Previous estimates on the sale ranged around $70 million. Hyatt said that IndTV Holdings is financed by two separate equity firms as well as 20 individual investors both inside and outside the media business, but stopped short of identifying specific backers.

Gore brings to the company a lifetime of experience at the intersection of public policy, technology and media. He served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and two in the U.S. Senate, establishing himself, specializing in technology, communications, nuclear disarmament, the environment and other issues. During his vice presidential term (1993-2000), he led administration policies on telecommunications and actively championed causes such as the environment and the growth of the Internet. Gore currently works as an entrepreneur, a senior advisor to Google, a director of Apple Computer and as a visiting professor at three universities.

"I'm making a long-term commitment to the future of this network," Gore said. "I don't expect to ever be a candidate for office again."

Hyatt is a proven entrepreneur and will serve as ceo of the network. He took on the legal establishment with Hyatt Legal Services, which provided low-cost services to middle- and lower-income families and grew to serve over three million clients. His Hyatt Legal Plans (acquired by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.) became America's largest provider of employer-sponsored group legal plans. Hyatt has served on the faculty at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, where his courses on entrepreneurship have been among the most popular at the school.

In addition to Gore and Hyatt, Mark Goldman will serve the new venture as coo. Goldman began his career at MCA Television, where he spent five years as a senior business development exec, negotiating license and investment agreements and developing foreign television channels. In 1995, he was recruited by News Corp. to build a satellite venture in Latin America. Goldman assumed the position of president/coo of Sky Latin America Partners, securing over $700 million in financing, building broadcast operations, and establishing a network of local operating companies.

Among those on the company's advisory board guiding the growth of IndTV are Steve Jobs, ceo of Apple Computer Inc. and Orville Schell, dean of the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism, an influential thought leader who has published 14 books and more than 150 articles, served as correspondent for several PBS FRONTLINE documentaries and CBS' 60 MINUTES, and is the recipient of Guggenheim and numerous writing awards.

Announcements will come in the near future on a programming chief, charter sponsors and specific programming concepts. The name of the actual network is still being determined.