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Al Jazeera America Launches In U.S.

posted 20 Aug 2013, 17:03 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 20 Aug 2013, 17:04 ]

Al Jazeera America launches its cable TV network in the United States out of its headquarters in New York City.

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORKUNITED STATES (AUGUST 20, 2013) (AL JAZEERA AMERICA) -  Al Jazeera America took to the airwaves on Tuesday (August 20) in an effort to deliver hard-hitting journalism backed by a coast-to-coast news organization.

Al Jazeera bought Al Gore's Current TV in January to compete with U.S. news networks like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. Terms of that deal were not disclosed, but analysts estimated it was worth as much as $500 million.

Al Jazeera faces an uphill battle to build a loyal U.S. audience, given it is under the patronage of the government of Qatar. The network has said its model would be based on the BBC, which is funded by the U.K. but independently operated.

Defining its mission clearly will be crucial for Al Jazeera to gain a foothold in theUnited States, a goal that has so far eluded the award-winning network funded by the emir of Qatar, according to advertisers, executives and industry experts.

"We are in the in-depth journalism. A lot of people they need in-depth, fact-based, unbiased, not opinionated journalism. Also, we are the voice of the voiceless. We cover the undercovered area. There is a huge demand on that," said Interim Al Jazeera America CEO Ehab Al Shihabi.

Executives at Al Jazeera America pledged to cover the U.S. domestic market, and opened bureaus in cities they considered under-served, such as DetroitNew Orleans and Nashville. It hired ABC news veteran Kate O'Brian to be its president.

"We're going to introduce more and more in-depth documentary. We're going to introduce also a newsy morning show. Also what we're going to do, we're going to go into more households. Also we are in a few months, or in one year, or two years, we are relocating to our permanent headquarters in New York City. So there is still a lot of activities that have to be done," added Al Shihabi.

The network will at first be available in 49 million U.S. households, about half the reach of CNN. When Current TV was acquired, some cable operators dropped the channel. Al Shihabi said he is confident that the network's reach will expand to 75 million households in a short time.

The main studio, where most of the 14 hours of live content will be filmed, features orange hues that evoke the logo of the parent company. But there are also a lot of blue and gold tones - colors that a design firm told Al Jazeera would appeal to an American audience.

Al Jazeera has said it will air six minutes of commercials per hour, well below the 15 to 16 minute industry average on cable news. It has indicated that it is willing to lose money on the venture in the near term.