Al Jazeera launches standalone online video service

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AJ+ (AJ+)
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Alex Weprin

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Al Jazeera quietly launched its digital video news channel Al Jazeera + on Friday.

Dubbed "AJ+" for short, the service seems to be cut from the same cloth as other video startups like NowThis News and Vice News. A handful of clips posted to its YouTube channel Friday give a taste of what is to come, with explainers, like "Boko Haram Explained," mixed in with videos designed for social sharing like "4 Ways Brazil Is Losing the World Cup."

"Do you like videos of cats, makeup tutorials and bloopers?" an AJ+ host asked in an introductory video. "Well that is what most of the Internet is for, but AJ+ will give you a fresh take on news, culture and current events from around the world."

AJ+ is an entirely separate entity from Al Jazeera America, the cable news channel launched by the same owners last year, though it does share office space in San Francisco, in offices that formerly housed Current TV.

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Al Jazeera America is somewhat restricted in the amount of video it can post online due to cable carriage agreements that restrict the amount of content a network can post online. While channels like CNN and CNBC have the leverage to negotiate better deals with carriers, independent channels like AJAM have a harder time negotiating favorable terms. Pay-TV companies pay the channel for carriage, and if too much of the content is posted online it can be seen as devaluing the channel.

AJ+ has no such restrictions, and is thus more free to experiment with different types of formats and programming.

While AJAM is focusing on long-form, hard hitting reporting, AJ+ seems to be honing in on shorter more sharable bites of news and commentary. For Al Jazeera's ownership in Qatar, AJ+ is something of a hedge, allowing it to invest in digital video in the event that its grand television plans work. It could also rise alongside AJAM, given how different the content for each seems to be.

AJ+ is also asking for pitches and videos from filmmakers.

"We’re looking for stories driven by strong characters, compelling voices and narratives, and unique insights into events and issues that may be local but resonate globally," the pitch description reads. "Stories should be current but not necessarily tied to current events."

It also launched official Twitter and Facebook accounts to go along with the video service.