Al Jazeera America, which launched with much fanfare nearly two years ago, is retrenching after failing to attract an audience in the U.S., according to the New York Post.
Insiders told the Post that the network is laying off staff and watering down its U.S. editorial voice while filling more airtime with programming from its sibling Al Jazeera English.
CEO Ehab Al Shihabi laid off seven staffers last week and has reshuffled senior news positions. This has led to newsroom tensions with some staffers who are considering seeking legal counsel because of the changes.
The Qatari government, which bought Current TV from Al Gore and his partner for $500 million in January 2013, has struggled to make Al Jazeera America into a cable news powerhouse. This is despite spending heavily on creating news bureaus and hiring staff, including former CNN’ers Joie Chen, Ali Velshi and Soledad O’Brien in an effort to give the network instant credibility.
Instead of giving the other cable news networks added competition, Al Jazeera America has been but a mere blip on the ratings radar with an average of 27,000 total viewers in primetime and just 19,000 in the key 25 to 54 demo, which is only marginally better than the old Current TV.
The Qatari government isn’t throwing in the towel just yet, but the recent moves at Al Jazeera America don’t bode well for its future as a cable news alternative to Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and HLN.