After Dish TV, Al Jazeera expands to Tata Sky

Al Jazeera English, the Qatar-based news channel considered the best source of information on the Middle East, has tied up with DTH-operator Tata Sky, five months after it entered India with a tie-up with Dish TV.

The channel was in the news recently after a ‘unfriendly broadcaster’ list submitted by the government in the Parliament contained its name, despite the fact that it had been issued a license to operate.

Al Jazeera has been beaming its signals into India for longer than it has been actively ‘targeting’ the country, but big cable and DTH operators are not allowed to carry those channels on their platforms unless they have been issued a license by the government.

It is also increasingly reporting on Indian affairs and not just those in the Middle East and the West.

With its first tie-up, with DTH operator Dish TV, it had officially landed on the platform of a big player, reaching about 12 million homes at one go (at the time.)

Now, the Tata Sky tie-up will allow it to reach another 9 million Indian households, Al Jazeera said.

Despite the fact that Al Jazeera has tied up with only two of the 10 or so major channel redistributors in India, the country already accounts for nearly a tenth of Al Jazeera’s English channel viewership.

In all, the channel reaches about 25 million homes in India — out of a total of about 150 million homes with television sets. About 45 million of those homes are served by DTH, while another large chunk is catered to by cable and the remaining watch only government channels.

Considering Al Jazeera English’s outside-India viewership is about 235 million, the channel has the potential to get about a third of its viewers from India in the next two years, depending on how it rolls out in the country.

“India is a really important country for Al Jazeera, with an outward looking, intelligent audience who are interested in what is going on in their world,” said Al Anstey, Managing Director of Al Jazeera English.

Pointing to its plans to truly make its presence felt in India through on-the-ground reporting, he said:

“We are committed to providing the highest quality coverage of India, from the region, and from our bureaux in all corners of the globe. We look forward to continue providing unique, comprehensive and compelling content to all of our viewers across the country.”

The channel is known for presenting a free, unbiased and independent perspective on events in the Middle East, whose coverage by Western channels often tends to be laced with prejudice and stereotypes.

The Indian news market is currently dominated by the Times of India group, the TV-18 group and the Living Media (India Today) group.

One of Al Jazeera’s flagship programs produced in India will be a six-part “observational documentary” on Bangalore’s Narayana Hrudayalaya.

“The documentary – executive produced by Oscar, Emmy and BAFTA winning filmmaker Jon Blair – was filmed over four months by two crews inside the Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City on the outskirts of Bangalore. By following the stories of patients, doctors and nurses the series explores the rich variety of life in modern India through the prism of hospital life,” the program description says.