August 20, 2013 10.49 Europe/London By Chris Dziadul
Al Jazeera will launch as a round-the-clock cable news channel in the US today (August 20).
Offering 14 hours of live US and international news programming daily, and employing up to 900 journalists based in 12 US cities, it will go head-to-head with well established networks such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.
Al Jazeera gained a foothold in the US at the beginning of this year following the acquisition of Current TV, formerly owned by US vice president Al Gore, for $500 million (€374.9 million).
Quoted by the New York Times, Ehab Al Shihabi, interim chief executive of Al Jazeera America, said “there will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings” on the channel. He added that, “we are not infotainment. We are in-depth and informative.”
Although Current TV’s viewing figures have slumped to around 24,000 in primetime as of last month, Al Jazeera America will initially reach almost half (48 million) of the US’s estimated 100 million TV homes.
Even so, it has yet to sign carriage agreements with major cable operators such as Time Warner Cable.
Al Jazeera America will allocate less airtime to commercials – around 6 minutes and hour – than the 15 minutes by other US news networks.
It will also use digital distribution, with the service being made available to viewers via mobile apps and over the internet.