Al Jazeera America to Shut Down

Al Jazeera America Broadcast Room - H 2013
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The cable news outlet wrapped 2015 with a mere 7,000 average primetime viewers in the news demographic of adults 25-54.

Al Jazeera's big bet on becoming a player in U.S. cable news is coming to an end. Al Jazeera America will be shut down on April 30, CEO Al Anstey announced Wednesday.

“I have witnessed and worked alongside some of the most talented people any organization could wish for. Since its launch in 2013, the work done by the team at Al Jazeera America has been recognized with nearly every major award an American news organization can receive," Anstey said in a statement.

The exec added: "I greatly respect the unrivaled commitment and excellent work of our team, which has created great journalism. We have increasingly set ourselves apart from all the rest, and the achievements of the past two-and-a-half years should be a source of immense pride for everyone.”

The final nail in the coffin comes less than a month after a rare instance of a story putting AJAM in the headlines. The network aired a documentary that claimed that Denver Broncos quarterback and NFL icon Peyton Manning (and a number of other professional athletes) used performance-enhancing drugs. Manning denied the claims, and the story has yet to gather any of the steam that that level of accusations may have on another network. MLB players Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman have filed defamation suits against Al Jazeera.

AJAM's end comes less than a year after it faced a huge crisis in 2015, when CEO Ehab Al Shihabi left amid accusations of sexism and anti-Semitism — not to mention the network's crippled ratings. That narrative did not change after his departure. AJAM wrapped the year with a mere 7,000 average primetime viewers in the news demographic of adults 25-54, essentially a scratch.

The New York Times first reported on Wednesday that the network would be shuttered. 

There were high hopes for Al Jazeera America when it took over the place on the dial formally occupied by Al Gore's Millennial-targeted Current TV. The stateside presence of the Doha-based news outlet has built a strong reputation in other markets and aggressively courted big names in U.S. broadcast. That includes ABC News vet Kate O'Brian, who served as the president of the network throughout its brief existence.

What is perhaps most interesting about AJAM's two-and-a-half year run is how little anyone at the network spoke out. O'Brian shed very little light on the editorial strategy, making one appearance for TV reporters in July 2014 only to emphasize that the outlet had “no editorial influence at all from Qatar." That ultimately translated to few in media ever giving much coverage to AJAM, except for bouts of negative news — namely Al Shihabi's departure and several rounds of layoffs.

Going forward, Al Jazeera will expand its digital presence, said Anstey, which is the route many observers counseled in the first place.