Watching Al Jazeera America online over the weekend, I became very disappointed that I don't have access to this channel on my normal TV set. I learned so much more about what is happening in different communities all around the United States than I would've ever known from watching CNN/Fox/MSNBC which are all over the Syria conversation 24/7. In my opinion, if more Americans were exposed to Al Jazeera's product, then there would be a high demand and increased carriage for this hard news station. Here are some things which AJA needs to do in order to attain more exposure.
1. Buy timeblocks from TV networks with a lot of carriage - Make your programming accessible in a way which won't offend cable operators. The internet is obviously the easiest way to gain fans but since AJA's internet usage is limited because of fears that it would hemorrhage the viewers' likelihood of watching AJA on TV, then AJA should use it's financial arsenal to buy time on networks which already have mass distribution. (Cable operators shouldn't be mad at this because if a viewer already has access to AJA, then it wouldn't stop watching AJA on that frequency to watch it being simulcasted on another station)
I would recommend buying either a late afternoon block to compete with the other cable newsers which aren't as strong in programming between 3pm and 6pm or buying an overnight block of programming when none of the cable newsers are broadcasting live and are vulnerable to being late and undependable if news breaks overnight. In the situation in which there is a big news story overnight, AJA is live 24/7 and if they're on a bigger platform which gives them more exposure and a chance to prove themselves then it'll become way easier to get into more homes.
Now I'm sure you're wondering, what TV networks are out there which have major distribution that don't already have all their timeblocks filled up with their own programming? Here are some suggestions of places to go.
Ion Television is available in over 99 million households and doesn't produce any original programming. It does have a vast array of reruns which have it's own respective audience. The UFC used Ion in 2007 to give itself a platform in more homes when it ended it's deal with Spike TV. NewsMax and Donald Trump also tried to air a Republican presidential debate on the network in 2011.
WGN America is available in 73 million households and even though it's starting to get into original programming now, it's not really a stabilized network. If AJA were to do this deal, maybe they could get some airtime on Tribune's biggest CW affiliates as well?
MyNetworkTV isn't a cable network but it's 106 million households on broadcast TV have the ability to reach a lot of people. Because of it's owners having their own news channel (Fox News), I can almost guarantee this will never happen but NFL Network used MyNetTV to promote itself back in the day so there's no reason why AJA shouldn't consider it as well.
News doesn't really fit the TV Guide Network's formula but their 77 million households reach could always help AJA.
Reaches 68 million homes and if AJA formed newsgathering partnership with them rather than just buying time from them, it could form a lethal force in journalism.
Original programming is no longer being produced on this network which reaches 61 million homes so AJA wouldn't be getting in the way of any of G4's endeavors. The problem is, NBCU probably doesn't want to help a rival of MSNBC.
2. Form a partnership to help get distribution - With the strategy AJA is taking on now, it's going to be many years before cable operators and the owners at AJA form a bond and form trust just like any relationship in life and in business. So why not seek assistance from someone who already has those partnerships (even if it means giving up an equity stake in the network)? It's what the NBA did with Turner, what the NHL did with NBC, what the Big Ten did with Fox, what the SEC and Texas are doing with ESPN, what Univision did with ABC to form Fusion.
I understand AJA doesn't want to be identified with the corporate culture of the other cable newsers and mainstream media but eventually if AJA is looked at as a success, then it should be identifiable with that culture, as unfortunate as that sounds. Here are some ideas for potential partners:
One of this companies' greatest strengths is in documentaries. Al Jazeera America is putting more money into documentaries than any of the other cable newsers. Discovery also lacks a news product and usually outsources backup on it's documentaries to NBC, but if they had AJA, they would be able to keep costs in-house.
CBS News is the last broadcast news operation to sail without a cable partner. ABC News just launched Fusion, Fox has Fox News, NBC has MSNBC. CBS also recently lost it's partnership deal with GlobalPost to NBC. What a better way to gain access to international bureaus and news happening all over the US than through AJA?
As crazy as it sounds, why not give NBC News journalists a second place to place real hardcore journalism which can't fit into MSNBC's new polarized identity?
Fuse is for sale. The music network owned by MSG is up for grabs due to MSG's commitment to focusing exclusively on regional television in the New York area. Here are the top 4 most likely buyers.
Maxim is launching a new television network which will feature women, extreme sports, music and probably more women. It'll also be minority-owned which will make it harder for the government to argue against and for cable operators to argue against. (They could also be legit contenders for G4 if NBCU put that up for sale.)
AXS.tv has been producing some amazing programming lately bringing viewers some ultimate access to different events which they wouldn't have had before. The problem is that because it's a precursor to HDNet, you can't get the channel unless you have the HD package. This would give viewers access to AXS which they didn't have before.
Seacrest is in the last year of his contract with "American Idol" and is slowly entering the next phase of his career as a mogul. While Seacrest will most likely continue hosting shows for the NBC family of networks, I wouldn't be surprised if he teams up with Clear Channel to jumpstart Fuse with the power of "IHeartRadio" and the access that entity has to artists.
This could also provide an avenue for more of Seacrest's productions to air on TV and give him more decisions to make as a CEO and owner than he does as a quiet partner at AXS.tv.
Dick Clark Productions is continuing to grow it's awards show arsenal, launching an electronic dance awards show. With it's own network and access to Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter's resources, DCP could make Fuse the ultimate entertainment network with live events and breaking entertainment news without the reality shows.