Al Jazeera America, which launched with much fanfare in 2013 after paying Al Gore and his partner an estimated $500 million for their failing Current TV network, announced on Wednesday that it will be shutting down at the end of April.
In addition to the money that the Qatari government paid Gore, Al Jazeera invested at least $100 million in staff and facilities for an audience that was too small to be regularly rated by Nielsen.
Al Jazeera, which has been trying for years without success to gain a foothold in the U.S., thought that buying Gore’s network with its availability in 60 million homes would give it both a larger audience and instant credibility.
Instead, the network failed to gain any traction. Its ratings, when measured by Nielsen, was often less than half of what even low-rated Current TV had attracted. That led to the network cancelling its morning programs one year ago, signaling the eventual demise of the network.
The low ratings resulted in sparse advertiser support. Though the Qatari government had deep pockets, they have undoubtedly been hurt by the collapse in oil prices, which are now at a 12-year low.
Needless to say, the demise of Al Jazeera America is a huge embarrassment for the Qatari government, but a victory for those who felt it never should have been on the air in the first place.
CEO Al Anstey’s email to employees on the shutdown is below:
You will have just seen the announcement from the Network about the closure of Al Jazeera America by April 30th this year. In the same email you will see the Network plans to expand its global digital services later this year. The decision is driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in an increasingly digital world, and because of the current global financial challenges.
I know this will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future. 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. We have increasingly set ourselves apart from all the rest. And you are the most talented team any organization could wish for.
We are working hard to ensure we put our people at the forefront of every decision related to the closure of AJAM, and we do the right thing by you. There will be a series of HR briefings meetings later today where this will be discussed in more detail and your questions can be answered. The briefings will also outline a number of other measures that are being taken in order to support every one of you as a result of today’s announcement.
You are a brilliant team made up of the most committed, professional, and dedicated people. I am deeply impressed and appreciative of the dedication and skill demonstrated by every one of you.
In recent months at every level, and in every department, we have been making progress and demonstrated improvements and seen positive change. Our audiences continue to climb. Slowly, but steadily. Our Editorial excellence was demonstrated time and time again on the major stories of recent months. And we continue to win praise from our colleagues in the industry, and from our viewers for the quality of our output.
Between now and April, we will continue to show America why AJAM has won respect and the fierce loyalty of so many of our viewers, who have steadfastly supported us from day one. Through your remarkable work at AJAM we have shown that there is a different way of reporting news and providing information. The foundation of this is integrity, great journalism, impartiality, and a commitment to the highest quality story telling. This will be our lasting impact, and as we produce and showcase the best of our work in the weeks to come this will be clear for everyone to see.
For me personally, it is a privilege and honor to work with you all. I arrived in New York six months ago prepared for a great challenge and committed to working with you all to build our content and reputation into the future. I quickly realized I had joined one of the best teams anyone could ever hope to work with.
I’m truly sad that that future we were making great strides towards cannot be realized. However, the achievements of the past two and a half years should be a source of great pride for everyone. In the months to come we will do everything that we can to support you, to work with you, and to ensure you are shown the respect you deserve.
Photo by Fringer
Photo by Fringer
Photo by Steve Rhodes
Photo by Steve Rhodes