Al Jazeera America to shut down as falling oil prices crater Qatar economy

Cable news channel Al Jazeera America will shut down in April, according to a company memo that cites the network's economic challenges for its demise.

In the memo, obtained by The New York Times and other media, Al Jazeera America chief executive Al Anstey said the channel's "business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace."

Anstey says Al Jazeera will now seek to increase its digital media presence in the U.S. market, but didn't offer a lot of details on that. 

Al Jazeera hit the U.S. cable market in August 2013 after Al Jazeera purchased Al Gore's Current TV for $500 million.

Promising to disrupt the U.S. cable news market with a smarter, better informed, less shrill -- and somewhat British -- sensibility, Al Jazeera America never caught on with U.S. viewers, averaging only around 30,000 sets of eyeballs for some primetime broadcasts.

There is also speculation that an economic downturn at the channel's Qatar-based headquarters, a region that has been impacted by falling prices for oil and natural gas, have also contributed to the channel's demise. 

"I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future," Anstey added. "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."

The closure will costs hundreds of U.S. media jobs. According to analysts, Al Jazeera America's failure highlights the challenges of breaking into a 24-hour cable news market in the U.S. dominated by Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. 

Cable news "is a very well-served market, not to say saturated, and you have three powerful, well-established players," said Andrew Heyward, former CBS News president, to the Times. "Endemically, it's not quite clear that the world was waiting for a new 24-hour cable channel in the U.S., and cable operators certainly weren't waiting for it."

For more:
- read this New York Times story
- read this USA Today story

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