Al Jazeera America had its premiere on Tuesday replacing Current TV. It was expected to be carried by five of the country's 10 biggest television providers, but one of those, AT&T U-verse, dropped Current, and thus Al Jazeera, late Monday night.
That decision irritated some U-verse subscribers, who complained online about the company's move and which further limited Al Jazeera America's potential audience on Day 1. In response, Al Jazeera America has filed a lawsuit against AT&T over its refusal to carry the new cable news network.
"Al Jazeera America made a decision to seek judicial intervention in its dispute with AT&T," the network said in a statement Tuesday night. The channel kicked off with an introduction by anchors Richelle Carey and Antonio Mora. The intro incuded clips of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain praising Al Jazeera , followed by clips of people on the street criticizing the existing media landscape.
Al Jazeera America is the first cable news channel to launch since Fox News back in 1996. The service's got plenty of cash, funded by the oil-rich royal family of Qatar, allowing it to hire a staff of 850, create 12 bureaus in the United States (and 70 more all over the world through Al Jazeera's network), and it has the noble ambition to bring Americans good, solid and unbiased journalism.
CNN has a lot to lose if Al Jazeera America is even a little successful. The modest ratings gains CNN has managed to make in 2013 under new president Jeff Zucker are going to disappear pretty fast if Al Jazeera America splits or even takes a bite out of the audience on big, breaking news stories. "And with CNN under Zucker favoring sensational trials over coups and riots in places like Egypt, Al Jazeera could find a breaking news audience very fast."
A possible big advantage? Per Ad Age...It will only air six minutes of commercials for every hour of television. Other cable news networks have 15 to 17 minutes of advertising per hour. A 2009 study found that hour-long TV shows were 36% commercials.
Al Jazeera CEO Ehab El Shihabi said that the limited number of ads is "one of our key competitive advantages ... we are not infotainment."