“We are not just ready, we’re more than ready,” said Ehab Al Shihabi, CEO of Al Jazeera America, on a conference call with reporters last week to discuss the launch of the new network on Aug. 20 at 3pm ET (the first program aired will be This is Al Jazeera Preview Hour).
Al Jazeera America is replacing Current TV in some systems, and will launch in just under 50 million homes, with carriage on DirecTV, Comcast, DISH, Verizon FiOS and
AT&T U-Verse. (UPDATE: The Wrap reports that just before launch, AT&T U-Verse dropped the network due to “contract disputes.”) You can find channel number and availability on your system here. (Note to those who watched Al Jazeera English: Although Al Jazeera America is a completely different network from Al Jazeera English, once Al Jazeera America launches, Al Jazeera English will no longer be available on TV or as an online stream in the United States.)
Headquartered in New York City and with 12 news bureaus across the United States (Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.), in addition to 70 international bureaus, Al Jazeera America says it aims to “provide both domestic and international news for American audiences.” A theme from Al Shihabi on the conference call was the network’s aspiration to report on more under-covered stories, and to offer, in his words, “less opinion [and] less yelling” than other cable news outlets.
Among some of the high-profile personalities the network has managed to hire include former MSNBC journalist David Shuster, who will serve as one of the network’s New York anchors, and former CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien, who will be a special correspondent and produce documentaries.
Al Shihabi also said there would be less commercials than on a typical cable news channel, with only 6 minutes of commercials per hour at launch. Whether this is a noble effort to diminish the impact of advertising on news, or a result of some advertisers’ skittishness at buying time on the channel, or a bit of both, remains to be seen.
Along with some advertisers, Al Jazeera America may have a perception problem with some viewers, as Al Shihabi admitted on the conference call that in testing, 75 percent of people who did not watch Al Jazeera had a negative perception of it, while 90 percent of people who did watch Al Jazeera were positive. It appears the challenge may be in drawing in viewers unfamiliar with or misinformed about the brand.
Al Jazeera America says it will offer more than 14 hours of daily live news, including news updates at the top of every hour 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Along with the live news, there will also be news magazine programs on various topics. The schedule of programs at launch is listed below, and Al Shihabi says other documentaries, and a weekly sports program, are also being planned.
Al Jazeera America Programming Schedule (descriptions provided by Al Jazeera America)
Inside Story (Monday – Friday | 5pm ET): Inside Story provides analysis, background and context on the top stories of the day. More than just the news, each 30-minute episode goes beyond the headlines by analyzing the facts and providing expert opinions to give viewers a frank assessment of the latest developments. Each episode features a panel of expert guests who examine and debate domestic and international topics ripped from the headlines.
Early Evening News (Monday-Sunday | 6pm ET): The evening news will be an hour report on the day’s events and continuing reports on ongoing stories.
Real Money with Ali Velshi (Monday – Friday | 7pm ET): Real Money with Ali Velshi focuses on how financial news and the economy affect Americans. The program covers a variety of topics including employment, personal finance, healthcare and education. The 30-minute magazine-style program features a mix of field reports from business correspondents across the U.S., in-studio guests and interactive discussions with viewers.
The Stream (Monday Saturday | 7:30pm ET): Hosted by journalists Lisa Fletcher and Wajahat Ali, The Stream is uniquely formatted to allow viewers to interact with the hosts and guests during the program via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ Hangouts and Skype. The show relies heavily on online resources and social media tools to connect with people across the country and around the world. The show’s social media team enables viewers to engage 24-hours-a-day with new content, comments, user-generated videos and a variety of posts.
Nightly News (Monday Sunday | 8pm ET): Hosted by veteran news anchor John Seigenthaler, this one-hour of news in primetime reports the day’s events and provides updates on ongoing stories.
America Tonight (Monday – Saturday | 9pm ET/PT): Al Jazeera America’s flagship show America Tonight is an hour-long news and current affairs magazine hosted by Joie Chen. Segments feature in-depth reports on subjects such as the economy, government, education, healthcare, and the environment, as well as breaking news. Correspondents from across the U.S. will provide original reports that probe pressing news issues through character-driven stories, groundbreaking investigative pieces and interviews with prominent newsmakers.
Consider This (Monday Friday | 10pm ET/PT): Hosted by Antonio Mora, Consider This is a weeknight current affairs talk show on issues important to American viewers. Each show will feature interviews with prominent newsmakers, panel discussions that provide insight through varied perspectives and involvement of the show’s audience using social media.
Late Night News (Monday Sunday | 11pm ET): A second hour of news airs from 11pm to midnight on the East Coast and 8 to 9pm on the West Coast. It closes Al Jazeera America’s primetime schedule in the eastern part of the United States and opens it in the west.
Fault Lines (Sunday | 7pm ET): Fault Lines goes beyond the headlines to investigate the impact of politics and policies on communities in the U.S. and abroad with dynamic, factual reporting. Examining stories that are often off the radar of mainstream news, Fault Lines puts a face to those who have fallen through the cracks, shines a light on their previously unheard voices and gives them a chance to tell their incredible stories. The half-hour documentary series examines such topics as gang violence in California, abuse of the elderly and the state of the U.S. housing market.
TechKnow (Sunday | 7:30pm ET): TechKnow is fast-paced, 30-minute show that explores how the latest scientific discoveries are changing our lives. TechKnow exposes the controversies and celebrates the accomplishments of human scientific and technological achievements from the U.S. and around the world. Segments are recorded in the field by a group of young, tech-savvy contributors with diverse backgrounds in science and technology. TechKnow‘s on-air talent provides viewers with 24/7 access as the conversation continues online between airings using Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.