For the first time in New York City, Al Jazeera English is on the air for 23 hours a day. The Qatar-based news net reached an agreement with Time Warner Cable and Regional News Network, allowing AJE to sublet RNN's cRISE, formerly a Spanish-language cabler. The deal gives AJE a distribution of 2 million homes in the New York region.
Since the beginning of the Arab Spring revolutions, AJE has been in the spotlight. The network has very limited U.S. distribution, bt commentators watching the unfolding uprisings in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere compared AJE favorably to other English-language networks, lauding the depth of its coverage. Until recently, the easiest way for most New York viewers to catch AJE programming was the live stream on the english.aljazeera.net website, but now viewers have a new outlet available to them - television.
Verizon FiOS viewers will be able to partake of the net's content in the coming days, as well. Interestingly, AJE hasn't shut down its web feeds on local ISPs, presumably opting for saturation over monetization at this early stage.
"This launch has been fueled by viewer demand," said AJE managing director Al Anstey. "We are already part of the media landscape here (...) We get more web traffic from New York than any other city on earth."
It's a period of change for cable news: CNN's much-discussed new focus on hard news puts Al Jazeera in competition with the much larger cabler as it continues to dig into the Middle East; the Qatari net also has an uphill battle ahead of it if Anstey & co. are serious about expanding coverage in America to include politics.
That would seem to be the case: "Ever since our establishment, we've been committed to coverage of America and New York with a large bureau and team of journalists based in the city," Anstey said in that same statement today, so AJE will have to dig in. But given the limited number of players in the TV news game today, more competition may ultimately mean good news for viewers.