According to the New York Times, Al Anstey, Al Jazeera’s chief executive, said in a memo that the “decision by Al Jazeera America’s board is driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace.”
Al Jazeera America will officially leave the airwaves on April 30. Following the closure, Anstey said, Al Jazeera will expand its digital presence in the U.S.
Al Jazeera bought Current TV on Jan. 3, 2013 for $500 million. In Aug. 2013, Al Jazeera America went onto the air, promising it would examine American politics more seriously than other American media organizations.
However, even before it went to air, some raised concerns, notably Glen Greenwald for the Guardian. He wondered if the network would neuter its usually critical tone and distance itself from its main network in Doha and Al Jazeera English. Initially, the network planned to include Al Jazeera English content but then apparently scrapped the plan. Based on this potential identity crisis, Greenwald wondered how many Americans would choose to watch Al Jazeera America over networks like CNN.
Whatever the result, Al Jazeera America was never able to pull in a large number of viewers. The New York Times says the network sometimes struggled to pull in 30,000 viewers during prime-time hours.
The New York Times also wrote a damning article in 2015, saying Ehab Al Shihabi, chief executive of the network at the time, had created a “culture of fear.” The turmoil saw several employee departures as the network struggled to attract viewers and income. Shihabi was replaced by Anstey as chief executive two days after the NYT report and following news of a $15 million lawsuit against the company, claiming employees were forced to work in a hostile environment.