Al Jazeera America is coming to Los Angeles, at least for Time Warner customers. That’s after the cable provider struck a deal with the two-month old news channel that bills itself as a more substantive alternative to the cable news channels Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
Getting picked up by pay TV providers is both very important – and very difficult – for new channels.
It took the NFL Network almost a decade to reach an agreement with Time Warner. (Though the NFL was no doubt holding out for much richer terms than Al Jazeera.)
The Al Jazeera deal actually happened unusually fast.
“It’s a big deal and we are very excited," said Ehab Al Shihabi, Al Jazeera America’s interim chief executive.
He says he can’t disclose terms of the deal, but pointed out it will make the channel available in an additional 11 million households in the important L.A. and New York markets.
Over half of U.S. homes that subscribe to cable or satellite will be able to tune into Al Jazeera.
But will they, for programming that some critics have called overly earnest?
The channel has averaged fewer than 25,000 viewers. Some shows have gotten a dreaded zero rating.
But Al Shihabi says he’s happy with Al Jazeera’s progress and says the channel is only in its early days.
“If you compare us to when FOX and CNN launched their channels within two months, we are in a very good position,” said Al Shihabi.
He says the channel is currently in negotiations with more providers, which will help ratings, as will a stepped-up promotional campaign.
Al Jazeera will be added to the Time Warner line-up sometime in the next six months.