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.
Reuters
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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid