Al Jazeera America has announced plans to shutter its U.S. media operations by April, citing an unsustainable business model that failed to bring in ad revenue, increase ratings, and attract viewers.
The cable news channel, owned and financed by the government of Qatar, launched in 2013 when it bought Al Gore’s Current TV, but failed to attract a large number of viewers, according to Al Jazeera America’s CEO Al Anstey.
“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future. Our commitment to great journalism is unrivaled. We have increasingly set ourselves apart from all the rest. And you are the most talented team any organization could wish for.”
Al Jazeera America paid $500 million for Current TV and when it opened promised to cover U.S. news soberly and seriously by presenting the facts and exploring news stories of the day with in-depth coverage.
The outlet attempted to steer away from the political bickering that has engulfed many cable news shows and focus on the facts.
It hired many famous journalists and vowed to increase investigative journalism and spend money to keep operations going during the early days when ratings were down.
Ratings, however, never improved to meet company expectations.
Critics disapproved of the network’s existence saying it was spreading its anti-American views, and at first some cable outlets refused to carry the network. The company sued to force the networks to carry their shows, and ratings increased but not enough to meet company expectations.
Executives said that the public would like the new show if they just gave it a try, but viewers refused to tune in.
Other issues plagued the network including allegations of a “culture of fear,” which resulted in the loss of a number of company executives. The following lawsuits alleging sexism and anti-Semitism didn’t help, reports the New York Times.
A movement by staffers to unionize despite management opposition also hampered the company, according to the USA Today.
After the chief executive was replaced, newsroom morale improved, but ratings didn’t increase. A documentary about doping in professional baseball and football released after Christmas failed to bring in expected viewers, but did anger the film’s subjects enough to cause two libel suits.
The news unit that conducted the investigation will remain open and unaffected by the shutdown of Al Jazeera America, according to the Washington Post.
Al Jazeera America was never able to jump above the 30,000 viewer mark and now the cable news network will be gone by April, allowing the parent company, Al Jazeera Media Network, to focus its efforts on its international digital services.
The parent company plans to expand its digital operations to push into the U.S. market where consumers are looking for content 24 hours day, according to a company statement.
This expansion will allow U.S. and non-U.S. consumers alike to access the network’s journalism and content wherever and whenever they want.
Denver Bronco’s Peyton Manning, a subject of Al Jazeera America’s doping documentary, wasn’t shedding any tears at news of the company’s closure, according to Fox Sports.
“I’m sure that’s just devastating to all their viewers.”
[AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews]