Al Jazeera in the United States
Al Jazeera English has been trying for years now to break into the United States (US) market but has been snubbed numerous times by cable and satellite distributors.
“On the one hand cable companies are big national conglomerates,” says Everette E. Dennis dean of NUQ. “but on the other hand they are highly sensitive to local issue and feelings. People are perpetually unhappy with cable companies.” Not wanting to even potentially irk an already unhappy community is a big reason why they have not been able to break into the market. So when Al Jazeera picked up former vice president Al Gore’s Current TV channel for US$500million (QR1.8 billion), it was not paying to inherit their paltry viewership but to gain access to its distribution network in the US of about 40 million homes in the country.
The acquisition was met immediately with setbacks when Time Warner Cable said it would drop Current TV. The company has since backtracked on its statement but is unlikely to offer the same distribution price negotiated by Current TV at 12 cents per subscriber a month, according to a Reuters report. Al Jazeera could end up paying to carry its channel for the short term, says the dean of NUQ, Dennis, like Rupert Murdoch did with Fox News, which now earns 89 cents per subscriber.
Nevertheless, Al Jazeera America has a chance to create something that is better than existing cable channels, feels Dennis. “Channels such as MSNBC and Fox have very partisan audiences, so perhaps Al Jazeera’s approach could be much more distinct,” he says.