Al Jazeera America has now joined the fray. But even before it went on the air, there was talk of bias against the channel from advertisers and cable operators. All of which means there is plenty of irony, finger-pointing and frustration for everyone.
Al Jazeera America has said it plans to be more of a straight-ahead service than other cable news channels, with fewer loud opinions and boisterous, entertainment-tinged content. Two network taglines were registered: “There is More To It” and “Change the Way You Look at News.”
Who is buying ad time on Al Jazeera America? So far, not many big, recognizable names.Vonage, the phone service company, was one advertiser. It ran multiple spots during the network’s daytime programming. Other advertisers included hot tubs and an exercise-like swimming pool.
A number of public service ads ran as well. They included spots from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the orthopedic surgeon association and Habitat for Humanity. There were also a lot of promo spots for Al Jazeera America.
Many advertisers may not be buying Al Jazeera for purely business reasons: this is a network that only covers 48 million U.S. TV homes, or 41% of the 116 million total homes. That’s way less than the 70% (around 80 million homes) traditionally required by advertisers for a national TV buy.
But it’s not just the network’s reach that’s detracting advertisers. Here are some comments in the New York Post from unnamed ad executives:
-- “I wouldn’t give
them a dime, especially since we are in New York.”
-- “They’re owned by an Arab country and they ran the [Osama] bin Laden tapes. I just wouldn’t trust them.”
Cable network start-ups these days are notoriously difficult. Even Oprah Winfrey had troubles launching OWN.
Al Jazeera America is only scheduling six minutes of commercial time per hour -- less than half as much as other cable and broadcast networks, whose commercials can run from 13 to 17 minutes.That signals Al Jazeera could be in this for the long haul, especially since its owner, Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera Media Network, presumably has deep pockets. Better for viewers? Hopefully. You would think quality journalism could win the day. But the U.S. TV market is a fickle one -- and many factors can be at play.