Al Jazeera to launch U.S.-based TV network
Al Jazeera Media Network will launch a new channel in the U.S. on Tuesday, Al Jazeera America.
The network will be the first U.S.-based channel for the Arab broadcaster.
For Tuesday's launch the channel will be available to 40 million American households through major providers including DirectTV, Comcast, DISH Network, Verizon and AT&T, according to an Al Jazeera America spokeswoman.
Time Warner Cable is the only major provider that will not carry the network, but a spokeswoman for the carrier said they are in active discussions with Al Jazeera America.
Al Jazeera America, which is financially backed by the government of Qatar, will feature 14 hours of live news and discussion a day, as well as news updates at the top of every hour.
Al Jazeera is a major news channel in the Middle East, where it was launched in 1996. Over the past decade, the network has launched additional international channels like Al Jazeera English.
It has long tried to break into the U.S. market but had little luck getting American broadcasters to carry its channels. It has drawn criticism and allegations of bias after the Bush administration vilified the network for broadcasting Osama bin Laden videos.
Al Jazeera English has been available in the U.S. online, but has only been picked up by a handful of cable providers, like Buckeye Cable in Toledo, OH. That international channel won't be available on TV or the Internet in the U.S. once Al Jazeera America launches Tuesday.
The network announced the launch of its new channel in January when it bought Current TV, the channel co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore.
Al Jazeera paid for Current TV's infrastructure, but that does not mean it automatically picked up its carriage agreements with American broadcasters, said Eric Nisbet, a professor of communications at The Ohio State University.
In fact, Time Warner Cable immediately dropped Current TV following the acquisition announcement in January.
Al Jazeera America's beta site allows customers to find out if their broadcaster with carry the channel -- and an easy way to petition those that are not immediately carrying the channel to do so.
Although the company may be lacking in revenue from carriage agreements at the start, that may not be a huge financial problem.
"It has deep pockets from the royal family of Qatar and doesn't have to worry about making a profit right away," said Nisbet.
Revenue will not be pouring in from advertisers either. The network will only have six minutes of commercials per hour. The network is touting its lack of ads saying that its coverage will be less cluttered.
"Al Jazeera America will be financially sustainable but doesn't have to sacrifice quality, in-depth coverage to maximize revenue," said a spokeswoman.
The network now has 12 bureaus in the U.S., and an additional 70 international bureaus, which it says is more than any other news organization.
It has plucked a number of journalists from American news networks, including former CNN anchors Joie Chen and Ali Velshi. (CNN and CNNMoney are owned by the same parent company, Time Warner.) John Seigenthaler, who spent nine years as the anchor for NBC Nightly News Weekend Edition, will take on the role of Al Jazeera America's prime-time news anchor.
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