NEW YORK (AP) - The Al-Jazeera America cable news network, which has attracted little viewer interest during its first two months on the air, announced a deal Tuesday that will give it a significant presence in the country's two largest television markets.
The network said the Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks systems have agreed to add Al-Jazeera America to their lineups over the next six months in New York and Los Angeles, as well as Dallas.
Between that deal, and others that have not been announced, Al-Jazeera will increase its reach from 45 million to 55 million homes, said Ehab Al Shihabi, the network's interim CEO. Probably more important than the numbers is getting exposure in the media industry capitals of New York and Los Angeles.
"This is what America needs," Al Shihabi said. "It needs an informative news channel."
So far, most TV viewers aren't aware of that need. Al-Jazeera America is averaging 14,000 viewers each night in prime time this month, the Nielsen company said. By contrast, Fox News Channel is averaging 1.86 million in prime time, MSNBC has 795,000 and CNN has 576,000 viewers.
Al-Shihabi said that Al-Jazeera America will launch an advertising and marketing effort this month, primarily to educate potential viewers where to find it. The executive said he constantly hears from people interested in watching who have no idea where to find the network locally.
"Come, watch it, taste it, and let's get your feedback," he said.
Al-Jazeera America is the English-language counterpart to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network. Al-Jazeera bought out Al Gore's Current TV network to find a place on the television dial in many markets across the country.
Al-Shihabi said he plans to add new American bureaus over the next six months, most likely in Boston and Atlanta, to add to the 12 it already operates. He also said he anticipates adding some 70 to 80 new jobs.
The network's goal is to be in 70 million homes by the end of 2014, he said. In the next few months, it will start a new morning news program, a weekly sports show and multiple documentary series.
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