Will Time Warner Provide Al Jazeera America With Ad Sales Support?

With new deal, AJAM distribution jumps to 54 million homes

Today Al Jazeera America passed the 50 million subscriber mark thanks in part to a new agreement with Time Warner Cable, which adds the net to its subscriber base and to Bright House Networks. It's a major milestone for the network, though perhaps not a financial watershed: according to the New York Times, Time Warner may actually be the one making money on the deal, if (as suggested) Al Jazeera is paying the cable company to sell ad sales support and marketing.

"We appreciate the vote of confidence that Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks have given to our brand of unbiased journalism and look forward to working with them as Al Jazeera America continues to grow," said Ehab el Shihabi in a statement sent out earlier today.

Sources in the buying world hadn't yet heard whether Time Warner Cable is repping the network, but Shihabi didn't deny it.

Al Jazeera is in the odd position of not really needing advertising—the network is programming a very, very low six minutes of clutter time per hour (that's below any network except the kids' networks, which are monitored by the FCC), and much of it is direct response. Since AJAM is funded by the government of Qatar (Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the country's progressive leader, has a reported net worth of some $2 billion personally), it's run essentially by fiat.

A spokesperson for TWC said that the MSO wouldn't discuss any of the terms of the agreement, but given that the network's inventory doesn't exactly seem to be top priority at the moment, the partnership would make sense. (There's also the matter of brands worrying about associating brands with Al-anything.)

Ratings for the network have been slight, frequently hash marks on the Nielsen chart, but news nets are notoriously slow to grow—Fox Business Network, launched in 2007, scored its first non-election prime-time wins against rival CNBC in May.