The Al Jazeera America cable news channel will shut down at the end of April, the network announced Wednesday, capping a two-and-a-half-year struggle to find an audience amid extremely low ratings.
“The economic landscape of the media environment has driven [Al Jazeera America’s] strategic decision to wind down its operations and conclude its service,” the network said in a statement.
The move to shutter the cable news network was announced in a memo to staff by Al Jazeera America CEO Al Anstey that was obtained by the New York Times.
“I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future,” Anstey wrote in the memo. “The decision that has been made is in no way because AJAM has done anything but a great job. Our commitment to great journalism is unrivaled.”
The Qatar-funded network launched in the U.S. in 2013 to great fanfare after spending $500 million to purchase Al Gore’s Current TV.
Pledging to cover American news from a more serious and somber perspective than other stations, the network was at first inundated with job applications. More than 8,000 people applied in only three days for just 160 positions.
But stagnant ratings and reports of extremely low morale in the newsroom proved difficult to overcome, with Anstey appointed in May 2015 to replace Ehab al-Shihabi as chief executive officer.
The channel routinely struggled in the ratings, often drawing just tens of thousands of viewers a night, compared to the hundreds of thousands brought in by other cable news stations. Fox News has often claimed more than 1 million primetime viewers.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the outlet finished 2015 by averaging just 7,000 viewers aged 25-54 in primetime.
Despite the closure of the network, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera media network also announced Wednesday it intended to expand its digital services and “broaden its multi-platform presence in the United States.”
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