Six months after its launch, Al Jazeera America is still searching for both advertisers and viewers, according to AdAge.
The network launched with Procter and Gamble’s Gillette as its largest national advertiser, but it has struggled to attract any others on that level. They have begun adding commercials from an array of smaller companies, according to a network spokesman.
AdAge reported that on Monday, Al Jazeera America did air ads from Expedia, but it said that most of the ads that ran during the day and in prime time were direct-response marketers such as The Tax Doctor, the Dollar Shave Club, Hip Hop Abs, GetDerm.com, Hair Club for Men and the term-life insurance company, SelectQuote.
Because cable systems often sell their own ads, it wasn’t clear to AdAge how many of the aforementioned advertisers actually bought, or bartered, time through Time Warner Cable instead of through Al Jazeera America. But even if the majority of ads were sold by Al Jazeera America, they were likely priced at a very low rate and aren’t likely to generate much, if any, revenue.
An even bigger problem for the network is that no one is watching it.
The network was added to Time Warner Cable’s lineup in January, bringing the total number of households to 55 million, but it hasn’t helped improve the ratings, according to AdAge:
The channel isn’t even pulling in half the total audience that predecessor Current TV managed. Al Jazeera America has averaged just 15,000 total viewers in prime-time since bowing in August, with only 5,000 viewers in the target 25-to-54-year-old demographic, according to Nielsen figures. That’s low enough to be considered ‘scratch,’ or negligible, by Nielsen. For the marketers that still worry about the channel’s perspective and its image in the U.S., those aren’t the kind of numbers to tempt a re-examination.
For most networks this would be an utter disaster and financially unviable. But not for Al Jazeera America, whose CEO, Ehab Al Shihabi, said when the network first launched that while profits are important in the long term, he isn’t concerned about them initially.
Why isn’t Al Shihabi concerned about profits? Because unlike other cable news networks Al Jazeera America is backed by the almost limitless funds of the Qatari government, which is determined to make the network a success no matter what the cost.
So far, Al Jazeera has cost the Qatari government a pretty penny—$500 million to purchase Current-TV from Al Gore and his partners, plus millions more to rent office space and hire people to staff its various bureaus across the U.S.
It may have only been six months, but the stunning lack of progress with advertisers and viewers doesn’t bode well for the network, and in the meantime has made them the laughingstock of cable news.