Al Jazeera America Launches, Files Lawsuit Against AT&T

Al Jazeera America launched in the United States on Tuesday to a small audience. The latest venture for the expanding Middle Eastern media empire also made waves by filing a lawsuit against AT&T just hours later.

The news network’s launch was highly anticipated ever since it purchased an existing channel in January. It went live at 3 om EDT on the lineup of four major cable and satellite TV distributor — but not AT&T.

The lawsuit filed by Al Jazeera America deals with a last-minute decision AT&T made to drop the channel from its U-Verse service, reports USA Today.

The company cited “contractual disputes” in their decision to turn the channel off at 11:59 pm EDT on Monday. That decision marred AJAM’s programming and public relations campaign, which it had been working on for months.

In response, Al Jazeera released a statement on Tuesday night, explaining that AT&T was “an affiliate that has willfully and knowingly breached its contractual obligations.”

The Washington Post notes that Al Jazeera first attempted to break into America’s news networks in 2006 when it launched Al Jazeera English. But it was a flop as cable providers around the country refused to add it to their channel lineups.

However, the media empire took a different approach in its latest attempt by purchasing Current TV, a struggling channel started by former vice president Al Gore. The news network wasn’t as interested in Current as it was in the network’s contracts with cable companies, which would ensure it would make it to about 45 million American homes.

However, AT&T dropped the channel, effectively wiping out about five million homes from the subscriber ranks. While AT&T isn’t carrying it, AJAM can be seen on Comcast, Verizon FiOS, DirecTV, and Dish Network.

While the network was able to reach 43 million people, it is likely that the number of viewers who actually tuned into the network was much smaller. The company doesn’t yet have viewership data, but those numbers should be released soon.

Would you watch Al Jazeera America?