Breaking News: Al Jazeera Debuts

Service Will Hour Offer 14 Hour of Live News Daily

Al Jazeera America is set to launch on cable systems serving nearly 50 million subscribers Tuesday (Aug. 20) with the hopes of breaking through an already crowded cable news marketplace.

The network, which bought out Current TV last December for a reported $100 million, will offer 14 hours of live news programming with news updates at the top of every hour. The network’s weekly primetime schedule will consist of breaking-news show Nightly News at 8 p.m., followed by current-affairs magazine show America Tonight and talk show Consider This at 10.

The network said it is confident that through its 12 U.S. bureaus and parent Al Jazeera Media Network’s 70 international bureaus it will be able to provide U.S. viewers with complete and thorough coverage of breaking domestic and international news.

“Launching any huge operation has its special challenges, but launching this particular channel, I think, is frankly less challenging than people might think,” Al Jazeera president Kate O’Brian said during a conference call last week. “The American viewer is looking for a particular set of things that they can’t find in the marketplace right now, and that’s unbiased coverage that’s in-depth and quality stories that they don’t really hear in any of the news product that’s out there right now.”

The network, which inherited most of its viewers from its acquisition of Current TV, is still trying to strike a carriage deal with Time Warner Cable, which dropped Current after Doha, Qatar-based Al Jazeera acquired it. Even with TWC on board, the network will fall well short of the almost 100 million homes apiece its cable-news competitors CNN and Fox News Channel currently have. Al Jazeera America’s CEO, Ehab Al Shihabi, said he is in contact with all distributors and is confident the network will be able to quickly gain additional distribution.

Nevertheless, O’Brian isn’t concerned about the competitive cable-news marketplace.

“In terms of breaking into a fairly busy landscape, we feel that we’re breaking in with something that is unique and is something that we’re confident that the American viewer is looking for,” she said. “We really see that we’re going to fulfill a need the American viewer has for quality news programming.”