Time Warner Cable has signed with Al Jazeera America, giving the Qatar-owned broadcaster exposure to millions more households. The distribution deal is the first Al Jazeera America has made since its debut two months ago.
The contract is especially important for Al Jazeera because Time Warner Cable supplies television to millions of households in New York and LA, the top two markets. Al Jazeera will be added to the channel lineups in those markets this year, and in Time Warner Cable’s other markets by March, per the NY Times.
Al Jazeera America’s interim CEO Al Shihabi estimated that by Q1 next year, the network would be available in about 54 million of the 100 million American homes that subscribe to satellite and cable television, up from about 44 million homes now.
Shihabi said Al Jazeera, which features American and international news, was in “active negotiations” with other cable and satellite distributors. He said Time Warner Cable’s decision was evidence that “we are providing fact-based, in-depth, independent news.”
Al Jazeera America, like other channel owners, has sought an unspecified per-subscriber fee to be carried. But distributors are generally reluctant to add to their crowded lineups, so channels have occasionally paid to be carried. In this case, Al Jazeera may pay Time Warner Cable for marketing and ad sales support.
Al Shihabi didn’t tell The NY Times whether Al Jazeera had paid, but called the distribution deal a “win-win proposition.”
Ten months ago when Al Jazeera announced its intent to take over Current, it gave Time Warner Cable a chance to drop the low-rated Al Gore-backed channel, dealing Al Jazeera an early setback as it entered the American marketplace.
Al Jazeera America’s ratings so far have been very low, with fewer than 25,000 viewers at any time.