It’s been years since the Cable Show served as the year’s hottest marketplace for new networks looking to cut distribution deals with operators. But don’t tell that to the folks at Al Jazeera America (AJA). The news channel backed by the government of Qatar plans to launch late August following its $500M acquisition of Al Gore’s Current TV. And it was the most prominent new programmer at this week’s annual confab looking to establish itself in cable’s mainstream. “We’re having encouraging meetings” with distributors including Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, and Cox, Al Jazeera Media Network’s international operations executive director Ehab Al Shihabi tells me. He could use some deals: At this point AJA should reach about 49M pay TV homes at launch, mostly subscribers with Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, AT&T U-verse, and Verizon FiOS. But national advertisers typically steer clear of channels with less than about 80M.
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