Wanted: A Broadcast Buddy
It’s easier to find Australian rules football on cable television than Al Jazeera English. Since launching in the United States last year, the English language version of the Arabic 24-hour news network has gotten little uptake on cable due to Al Jazeera’s reputation here for having an anti-American bias.
The network is making another push this fall to gain broader carriage in the United States under Phil Lawrie, recently hired as global distribution director from tbs. Al Jazeera English is hoping for deals with at least one of the major cable operators, even if it means landing on a paid tier rather than basic cable.
“We just want to get a foothold in the market,” explains Nigel Parsons, the managing director of Al Jazeera English, on a recent visit to New York from his base in Doha, Qatar. He believes there’s sufficient interest to support bigger play on cable.
Even Russia Today, the state-funded, 24-hour English-language news channel, recently signed with Time Warner Cable for carriage in New York and New Jersey on channel 135.
“Most people who have a bad opinion of us have never seen us,” Parsons says, adding that Al Jazeera English gives U.S. viewers broader context for news in the Mideast and elsewhere overseas.