News / USA

Al Jazeera America Launches, AT&T Won't Carry Network

A man works at a desk in the Al Jazeera America broadcast center in New York, Aug. 20, 2013.
A man works at a desk in the Al Jazeera America broadcast center in New York, Aug. 20, 2013.
New cable network Al Jazeera America introduced itself to U.S. viewers on Tuesday with reports on political strife in Egypt and a shooting at a Georgia elementary school, making its bid to win audiences shortly after a major pay TV distributor declined to carry the network.
The decision by AT&T's U-verse pay-TV service stemmed from a contract dispute over terms to carry the new channel, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said.
Globally, Al Jazeera is seen in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries. But the new U.S. channel funded by the emir of Qatar has so far had difficulty getting distributors, in part because Al Jazeera was perceived by some as being anti-American during the Iraq war.
Before AT&T's announcement, Al Jazeera America said it would be available in more than 40 million homes, roughly half the reach of Time Warner Inc's CNN. U-verse was launched in 2006 and had five million video customers at the end of June in markets such as Texas and California.
“We could not reach an agreement with the owner that we believed provided value for our customers and our business,” AT&T spokesman Siegel said.
Defining the new channel's mission clearly will be crucial for Al Jazeera to gain a foothold in the United States, according to advertisers, executives and industry experts.
In its first hour at mid-afternoon, Al Jazeera pledged to cover “issues that matter to America and the world beyond.” Anchors said they would provide in-depth coverage of stories ignored by other media outlets, with bureaus in cities they considered underserved such as Nashville and Detroit.
Al Jazeera America hired ABC news veteran Kate O'Brian to be its president and on-air talent including CNN veterans Ali Velshi and Soledad O'Brien.
Its news coverage kicked off with reports on Egypt, the Georgia school shooting and wildfires in the western United States, topics also covered by cable news competitors on Tuesday. Al Jazeera America also reported on a hunger strike by inmates protesting conditions in California prisons and Kodak's plan to rebound from bankruptcy.
It turned to sports with an interview of retired slugger Gary Sheffield about baseball's steroids scandal. A show called “Inside Story” explored the impact of climate change on U.S. cities and working conditions in Bangladeshi factories.
Audience ratings data were not yet available.
Coverage Described as Balanced
Media critic Howard Kurtz, speaking on rival Fox News Channel, said Al Jazeera America's early coverage was “not much different, at least so far, than what you might see on Fox News, CNN or MSNBC.” One top story on Egypt was “right down the middle” in terms of balance, he said.
The network is airing six minutes of commercials per hour, below the 15 to 16 minute average on cable news. Executives indicated they are willing to lose money in the near term.
Advertisers on Tuesday included Procter & Gamble Co's  Gillette for its Fusion razors and phone service provider Vonage .
U-verse is the second TV provider after Time Warner Cable to drop the network since it acquired Current TV in January and replaced it with Al Jazeera America. Comcast, DirecTV, Dish and Verizon are carrying the network.
Merrill Brown, a former media executive who helped launch cable news network MSNBC, said Al Jazeera America may need to pay distributors if it wants to reach more viewers, particularly since it is not owned by a media conglomerate that can package it with other channels to gain leverage in negotiations.
“It's hard to believe they are going to get this thing nationally distributed without paying for carriage,” Brown said.

You May Like

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs