By Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) - Time Warner Cable will carry Al Jazeera America, which it had dropped earlier this year, giving the cable news channel a bigger foothold in the United States, where it has struggled to gain distribution.
The channel, which is owned by Qatar-based Al Jazeera and launched in August, will be available on digital basic cable packages in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas in the next six months, according to a statement by Time Warner Cable on Thursday.
Time Warner Cable said it would add the channel on all of its systems in the coming months. The company is the second-largest U.S. cable provider, with 12 million subscribers.
Time Warner Cable declined to comment on the terms of the deal, so it is unclear whether Al Jazeera was paying to be carried on the cable system. A spokeswoman for Al Jazeera did not respond to a request for comment on whether the network would pay Time Warner Cable.
Last January, Time Warner Cable had dropped the channel just hours after Al Jazeera announced it was buying Current TV, a struggling cable channel founded by Al Gore.
Bright House Networks, a smaller cable system that Time Warner Cable negotiates programming contracts for, will also carry the new channel.
In a statement, Al Jazeera America interim Chief Executive Officer Ehab Al Shihabi said the channel would now be available in 55 million homes. It will still trail the reach of CNN significantly since that network is available in about 100 million homes.
Comcast Corp, the largest U.S. cable operator, carries the network, as does DirecTV, Dish Network Corp and Verizon Communications Inc's FiOS.
Al Jazeera has sued AT&T Inc, which decided not to carry the channel on its U-verse TV service, which had 5.3 million subscribers as of September 30.
Globally, Al Jazeera is seen in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries. But the new U.S. channel funded by the emir of Qatar has so far had difficulty getting distributors, in part because Al Jazeera was perceived by some as being anti-American during the Iraq war.
Al Jazeera, which went live August 20, has pledged to provide in-depth coverage of stories ignored by other media outlets, with bureaus in cities it considers underserved, such as Nashville and Detroit. So far, the channel has not done well in the ratings.
(Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)