Making her first appearance at the semi-annual Television Critics Association conference in California, Al Jazeera America president Kate O’Brian told the assembled critics that despite the challenges, the network is on track to achieving its goals.
“We are trending in the right direction,” O’Brian said, adding that the network will “get there” in the U.S. “in time.”
Exactly how much time, though, is a big question, given the network’s struggles to date.
Since the Qatari government bought Current TV from Al Gore for $500 million in 2013, the network has spent hundreds of millions more to establish a dozen news bureaus in the U.S., and except for a few Peabody awards, it has little to show for its money.
Ratings have plunged to less than half of what they were on Current TV—which were so bad they weren’t even recorded by Nielsen.
Then there is the dearth of national advertising. That is due in part to concern over Al Jazeera’s content, but largely it is a result of the fact that virtually no one is watching the network.
Even though O’Brian said that Al Jazeera has supportive, corporate parents, and that the network was here for the “long run,” the Qatari government probably has an upper limit in mind on how much it wants to spend on this venture.
The clock is ticking.