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Al Jazeera in the US

Al Jazeera is trying to break into an already congested market in the US, and it is still uncertain whether this strategic investment will pay off.

Al Jazeera is set for a trial by fire as dwindling audience ratings across all networks and a negative public image are the two main issues that the network needs to overcome. Many people in the US will have already heard of Al Jazeera because of its coverage of the so—called “War on Terror.” The network’s credo of “fact-based, unbiased and in-depth journalism” meant that Al Jazeera Arabic has shown some reporting that its rivals have publicized as anti-American. This perception of the company will be hard to shake, especially with the more conservative viewers that are usually associated with Fox News. Another issue that the new network is facing is the fact that the viewers are now looking to alternative media for their news, with the main pull being online. CNN experienced a 20 year low in 2012 as cable television viewers continue their migration to broadcasters such as Netflix and Hulu. CNN is not the only new network to take a hit as MSNBC also registered a 9% decrease in viewer numbers in 2013 compared to the year before. This news has not been lost on Al Jazeera, however, as Mostefa Souag, Acting Director of Al Jazeera Media Network explained to TBY. “It is crucial for Al Jazeera to reach these potential users via their smartphones, laptops, and tablets.”

It is still early days for the company in the US and low audience figures compared to other networks can be turned around quickly. A problem that Al Jazeera has been facing is the reluctance of major cable operators, such as Time Warner Cable, to sign deals and broadcast the network. A possible reason for this is Al Jazeera’s focus on news, rather than advertising. In a 1-hour period, Al Jazeera will broadcast an average of 6 minutes of advertisements, compared to the industry average of 15 minutes.

While operations in the US are well underway, Al Jazeera is also targeting a market a little closer to home. On January 22, 2014, Al Jazeera Türk launched its website with the aim of broadcasting to Turkic nations by the end of 2014. In February 2011, Al Jazeera bought Cine5 for $40.5 million after an unsuccessful bid of $21 million. The channel will broadcast to Turkey, the Balkans, and Central Asia.

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