Warc, 20 August 2013
NEW YORK: Advertisers are reportedly proving reluctant to take out slots on Al Jazeera America (AJAM), the Qatari-owned news channel that is launching in the US.
A TV buyer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Ad Week how he had failed to persuade a financial services company that was "a perfect fit" for the channel to buy airtime.
"We totally tried to talk our client into doing it, but they are very conservative," he said, noting that they would not change their stance as long as there remained a chance of bad press.
Conservative news organisations in the US are not well disposed towards a rival with an Arabic name that in the past broadcast messages from Osama bin Laden and advertisers fear being tainted by association, the report suggested. "It's going to be a big problem for a lot of people," added the buyer.
But he was also full of praise for the channel. "We want to use them," he said, "but the client wouldn't go until they could prove that people will take them seriously."
Ehab Al Shihabi, interim CEO at Al Jazeera, claimed that 90% of Americans who had watched Al Jazeera liked it. But the same research also suggested that 75% of those who hadn't tuned in had a negative opinion.
He added that he and his team had engaged on a charm offensive in to tackle misperceptions about the channel and met with agencies. He was, reported the New York Times, offering "fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news". In addition, he stated, "there will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings".
AJAM is scheduling six minutes of commercial time per hour among the 14 hours of news daily, well below the industry norm. The backing of the Qatari ruling family means the channel is not as dependent on advertising as its peers.
AJAM replaces Current TV on cable and satellite line-ups and will, initially, reach around 48m homes.
Data sourced from Ad Week, New York Times; additional content by Warc staff