x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Al Jazeera seeks to conquer the US

As Al Jazeera English hits TV screens in New York, the Qatar-owned channel says it is in distribution talks with major operators across the US.

Al Jazeera English is in distribution talks with major TV operators across the US, as it looks to meet greater demand for news about the Middle East after the Arab Spring.

The Qatar-based news station has for years been campaigning for wider distribution in the US, but has met with some political obstructions there due to perceptions about its Arabic-language sister channel.

But on Monday the English-language channel hit the airwaves in New York City - and it is engaged in talks with numerous cable and satellite broadcasters over distribution in other parts of the US.

"We're in meetings with all the key cable and satellite operators," Al Anstey, Al Jazeera English's managing director, told The National.

Mr Anstey, who was speaking from New York, said he was confident that Al Jazeera English would be successful in securing wider distribution.

"It is a question of when, not if," he said. "We're making progress with some of the key players."

Al Jazeera English on Monday said it is available for the first time to cable-TV viewers in New York, though its launch on Time Warner Cable's Channel 92.

It will shortly launch on the additional Verizon FiOS channel, bringing the total number of New York-based TV viewers that can access the channel to two million.

Al Jazeera already attracts half a million New Yorkers as "regular visitors" to its website - and is launching on cable TV in response to this demand, Mr Anstey said in a statement.

"This launch has been fuelled by viewer demand. We are already part of the media landscape here, with one in ten people having got information on events in America and the world from our website this year alone. We get more web traffic from New York than any other city on earth," he said.

Content from Al Jazeera English is already on air in Washington DC, Los Angeles and Ohio; and it can also be viewed across Latin America and Canada.

However, the channel had faced difficulty gaining wider distribution in the US.

It said last year that the Al Jazeera network - which also operators a Arabic-language channel - had faced "very aggressive hostility" from the Bush administration, blaming this for the reluctance of cable and satellite companies to carry the English-language channel.

However, Mr Anstey said there had been a "sea change" in the attitude to the channel among political leaders in the US. Many have tuned into the channel for news about the recent unrest in parts of the Arab world, he added.

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae