Al Jazeera America made its debut on Aug. 20, and the first week of ratings are in. And they’re pretty darn low.
According to TV Newser, the highest-rated show on the station, which replaced Current TV, was the Thursday airing of “Real Money With Ali Velshi.” The program drew 54,000 total viewers, which is fewer than Al Jazeera America’s Twitter audience of 75,000.
The channel’s launch drew just 22,000 people, which is below the threshold which Nielsen claims it can report viewers. An audience that low is called “scratching.”
The American offshoot of the Qatar-based international news organization was not expected to be a ratings monster in the U.S. upon its debut. Besides replacing the already low-rated Current TV, it lost several million households when AT&T Uverse dropped the channel on the day it launched. (The telecom company cited a contract dispute as the reason for the action). Currently, Al Jazeera America is carried in 40 million U.S. homes.
Those ratings put it far behind current cable news champ Fox News, which draws an audience in the millions for its top-rated program, “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Al Jazeera has freqently drawn both intense criticism and praise in the U.S. for reporting that was considered critical of American policy.
Critics who viewed the opening days of the new channel said it delivered on solid information, but fell behind in making it compelling TV viewing.
Times television critic Mary McNamara wrote, “It’s tough to make a half-hour of truly informed conversation about climate change interesting. It’s almost impossible if you’re going to rely on three talking heads and some fairly banal graphics.”