Al Jazeera set to go US-wide within five years
Qatar-based news channel says it’s a question of when, not if, it goes national
Thursday, 25 August 2011 3:03 PM
Qatar-based TV channel Al Jazeera English expects to broadcast in all US states within the next five years, its managing director said, after inking a deal with Time Warner to air in New York.
The 24-hour station, the first English-language news channel headquartered in the Middle East, is in talks with cable and satellite distributors as it seeks to grow its overseas footprint.
“Conversations with all the big satellite and cable operators in the United States have been going on since we launched, they have been progressing very well in recent months and they are continuing,” said managing director Al Anstey. “For me it is a question of when, not if, we make the break through onto other operators in other parts of the United States.”
The channel attracts high demand in California and Texas and more online viewers in New York than anywhere else in the world, Anstey said.
“At this stage it’s difficult to say which place will be next. We’re talking to all the main operators in the US and… and we’re progressing at a different pace with different operators.”
Al Jazeera was launched in Qatar 15 years ago by the state’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani with the goal of providing independent news to the region.
Today, Al Jazeera English – a spin off to its Arabic-language sister channel – broadcasts to more than 220 million households in more than 100 countries.
Though the channel has been available in the US via internet streaming for some time, Al Jazeera English has yet to be carried by more than one satellite service. This may be in part a reaction to Al Jazeera’s uneasy history with the American government. The broadcaster was chastised for its coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, specifically its airing of al-Qaede footage, but the tone from Washington has softened in recent years.
US President Obama has previously said he watches the network and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the network’s Doha headquarters last year.
“There were a lot of misconceptions about there about what Al Jazeera stood for, but now that we’re visible, now that we’re distributing in the United States and now that we’re recognised for the quality of what we do, I think those misconceptions are being increasingly confined to history,” Anstey said.
“In the last year, with the magnitude of events, such as the Arab Springs, and also the situation in Japan, we have seen exponential growth in viewership from areas in the US.”
The channel, which went live in New York on 8 August, now airs 23-hours a day on US cable channel RISE, under a leasing deal with the network.