Al Jazeera America Makes Debut With Few National Advertisers

Network Promos and Direct-Response Ads Account for Bulk of Commercial Window

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In its first days on the air, Al Jazeera America's short commercial window has been dominated by promotions for the network itself and some direct-response ads. There are only a few national brands, including Gillette and ThermoSpas, that have bought time on the new cable news network.

Al Jazeera America has said it is strategically offering a reduced commercial load, with just about six minutes of commercials an hour. This compares with about 15 minutes on competitive networks. CEO Ehab Al Shihabi said the network wanted to keep the focus on unbiased, fact-based journalism and not clutter up the news with advertising.

While this may be true, it doesn't look like top marketers are clamoring to be on the network, either. During the 3 p.m. hour Thursday, ads for ThermoSpas hot tubs, the Christopher Reeve Foundation and Gillette's Fusion ProGlide razors and shave gel were placed between promos for Al Jazeera America programming.

The Nation has also bought time to run direct-response advertising, according to an Al Jazeera America spokeswoman. Procter & Gamble, parent of Gillette, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

"Our clients are considering it, but none are buying yet," one media buyer said. "Many clients are not aware of what kind of news organization it is internationally, so right now it is about education."

But the buyer said that conversations are headed in the right direction. "Two months ago one of my clients wouldn't even let me get the name Al Jazeera America out of my mouth. That same client yesterday asked when we are going to sit down and discuss the opportunity."

Vonage was one marketer that appeared on the network, albeit briefly. "Given the newness of the network and concerns around the historical content of programming outside of the U.S., Vonage has decided to suspend advertising on Al Jazeera America for the foreseeable future," said Vonage in a statement.

Al Jazeera America premiered Tuesday in about 45 million homes, but is currently not carried on Time Warner Cable, AT&T or Cablevision. The network filed a lawsuit against AT&T this week after the telecom giant decided on Monday night to drop the channel from U-Verse, citing contractual disputes. AT&T has about 5 million U-Verse customers.

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