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Ozy Media is shutting down.
The digital media company, co-founded by former CNN contributor and MSNBC anchor Carlos Watson, said on Friday that it would close its doors for good following days of scrutiny in the wake of a New York Times exposé.
Ozy Media’s board of directors announced the decision in a statement: “At Ozy, we have been blessed with a remarkable team of dedicated staff,” the statement began. “Many of them are world-class journalists and experienced professionals to whom we owe tremendous gratitude, and who are wonderful colleagues. It is therefore with the heaviest of hearts that we must announce today that we are closing Ozy’s doors.”
Ozy Media has been facing a reckoning all week, with the chairman of its board, Marc Lasry, having resigned, and the company’s COO Samir Rao, on leave after the Times revealed that he impersonated a YouTube executive in a fundraising meeting with Goldman Sachs.
Earlier on Friday, Watson resigned from NPR’s board of directors.
While much of the scrutiny of Ozy focused on its digital media practices, and its treatment of employees, in recent years the company had leaned into television.
In 2019 and 2020, Ozy Media had TV deals with A+E Networks, OWN, Hulu, and PBS, with Watson himself fronting much of the programming, which included profiles of people like John Legend (Defining Moments, for Hulu), and specials about mental health (Voices Magnified, for A&E).
A PBS spokesperson says that the public television giant has no current productions or deals with Ozy. An OWN spokesperson says the channel’s deal with Ozy ended earlier this year, and Ozy has not had a project on Hulu at all this year.
The only TV deal that appears to have been active at the time of the shut down was for a series of specials with A+E Networks. However, a source at A+E Networks says that their partnership with Ozy is nearing an end, and the company will be discussing how to move forward given the news.
Ozy’s relationship with A&E was featured in a Times follow-up story, in which columnist Ben Smith detailed how Watson lied to the executive producer of The Carlos Watson Show, telling him and the guests on the program that it would be for A&E (those guests included actor Terry Crews and author Malcolm Gladwell). While Ozy’s deal with A+E Networks did cover TV specials, it did not include the daily talk show.
In fact, Ozy instead uploaded the shows to its YouTube Channel (Watson also falsely told Ozy staff that it was a “YouTube Original,” which implied that YouTube commissioned the show).
In addition to its faltering TV deals, Ozy Media lost one of its recent star hires, Katty Kay. Kay, a BBC News veteran, joined Ozy earlier in the year with the intention of producing and starring in some of its video and audio programming.
And so, after raising more than $70 million, Ozy Media has turned into something like the stone statue in the Percy Shelley poem for which the company is named.
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
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