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Al Jazeera Unit Renews U.S. TV Push

Ex-TBS exec Lawrie to broker U.S. carriage 9/28/2007 08:00:00 PM Eastern

More than a year after launching Al Jazeera English, the Middle East news network is renewing its push for carriage in the U.S.

Al Jazeera has brought in Phil Lawrie, a former VP of sales and distribution at TBS’ European headquarters, to broker carriage deals here.

Launched 10 years ago as a satellite news service for the Arab world, Al Jazeera’s current roster of channels includes Al Jazeera Documentary, Al Jazeera Sport and Al Jazeera.net, and reaches 100 million people globally.

In the U.S. Al Jazeera English is only available via the Web (English.aljazeera.net) and the network’s dedicated YouTube page. Several carriage deals were scuttled last year after special interest groups mobilized protests because of misconceptions about the channel, such as that it was an anti-Israel propaganda tool that aired Al Qaeda videos of beheadings.

“Ninety-nine times out of 100, once people see us they like the channel and they realize it’s a very impartial news channel,” says Nigel Parsons, managing director of Al Jazeera English. “And it offers a very wide view of the world that you can’t get on other channels.”

Underscoring the demand for the channel in the U.S., Parsons points out that the Al Jazeera English Website receives as many as five million page views a week with 60% of the hits coming from the United States.

Al Jazeera English is headquartered in Doha, Qatar, with broadcast centers in Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington, D.C.

Parsons hopes to have “two significant deals signed in the next few months.”

“Once we get a foothold, that will open doors,” he says. “And as people see us, they’ll see it’s safe to unleash us on their children.”

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