You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Al Jazeera America Chief Sees Challenges Ahead

Early consumer research revealed negative impressions among those who have not seen Al Jazeera content previously

How do you get people to  talk about and ultimately pay for your content when they aren’t able to see it for themselves? Solving that conundrum may be a top priority for executives at Al Jazeera America.

Backed by the Qatar government, Al Jazeera’s U.S. operation is set to launch on air August 20, but it will do so without carriage on several  large distributors like Cablevision and Time Warner Cable. And it will do so armed with research showing converting would-be customers who have a negative perception of the network requires having them watch it for a while.

Surveys conducted by the company early in its launch process – in January – showed that of people who do not watch Al Jazeera programming, in the U.S., 75% have a negative impression of the operation, said Ehab Al Shihabi, interim chief executive of the company;’s U.S. operations. Among those who have watched, 90% have a favorable impression, he said. The study was conducted in January after Al Jazeera purchased the Current cable network for what is said to be around $500 million. Since that time, he said, perception “has become more on the positive side.”

Any TV newshound may be familiar with Al Jazeera’s story. The network promises in-depth coverage, investigations and hard news, rather than the shouting-head pundit panels that have become a staple of cable-news operations. And thanks to its parent company, it has feet on the ground in many parts of the world, so that it can give American audiences reportage on events in Egypt, for example, that are of extreme interest,

But  the network will need to reach people in order to convince them of its value and utility. The network is poised to launch in just 48 million homes, Compare that with 21st Century Fox’s Fox Sports 1, which has worked furiously to secure carriage on Time Warner Cable and others, and reach the majority of pay-TV homes when it debuts this weekend.

“I am sure it’s just a matter of a short time,” said Al Shihabi. “We are already talking with most of our distributors” regarding carriage.

Al Jazeera has also spent time making its case to advertisers, reaching out to ad-buying concerns to dispel any notions that the network may be biased or have an anti-American lens.  “The bad perception has been converted into a positive perception,” Al Shihabi said. ” I think we are not concerned any more.”

The network intends to run just six minutes of advertising per hour, he said, far less than what the network estimates is between 15 minutes and 17 minutes of advertising per hour. Al Jazeera America will debut with an advertiser as “launch partner,” Al Shihabi said, though he declined to provide the sponsor’s name., He also declined to name specific categories of advertising that would appear on air, but said the network had backing from a range of marketers.

More TV

  • Bristol, CT - March 13, 2017

    Mina Kimes Helps ESPN Kick Off 'Daily' Podcast

    Mina Kimes is preparing to take ESPN into a new frontier. The sports-media giant has launched a “SportsCenter” for Snapchat and tested baseball telecasts for kids. Now it’s hoping to set up shop in another media venue. Starting tomorrow, the Disney-backed company launches “ESPN Daily,” a weekday morning podcast that aims to tap its vast [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]


    Showrunner Stefano Voltaggio on Netflix's 'Zero' About Black Youths in Italy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix recently announced a new Italian original titled “Zero” that will mark the first Italian series centered around the present-day lives of black Italian youths. “Zero” is based on several books by young writer and TV music show host Antonio Dikele Distefano, who was born in Italy from Angolan parents. The project was originated by [...]

  • Content-is-King

    Top TV Execs Tackle New Distribution Landscape in Rome

    ROME – In an increasingly complex TV market, with a host of new big-ticket streaming services preparing to enter an already crowded arena, both buyers and sellers are rethinking some of the fundamentals of the TV business as they grapple with the best way to reach global audiences. A host of top producers, network executives, [...]

  • MIA-MARKET-2019_Europe-Producers-Club_4

    European Producers and Broadcasters Debate How to Weather Streaming Storm

    ROME – The impending rollout of Disney Plus, HBO Max, and other new streaming services promises a new era of uncertainty—and opportunity—for broadcasters and producers in an industry already disrupted by the likes of Netflix and Amazon. At a panel hosted by the European Producers Club Friday afternoon during the MIA market in Rome, executives [...]

  • Kevin-Beggs

    Lionsgate TV Chairman Kevin Beggs on Streamers and TV’s ‘Platinum Era’

    ROME – Over the course of two decades in the industry, Lionsgate Television chairman Kevin Beggs has witnessed the ups and downs of a business that has frequently found itself confronting both dizzying new possibilities as well as existential threats. But these days the veteran exec, who oversees the development of all scripted and non-scripted content [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content