Black News Channel is closing two years after its debut

Black News Channel, a cable news channel that aired two years ago to provide an alternative look at news from the perspective of Black Americans, is closing, the outlet’s executive director told employees Friday.

“Due to challenging market conditions and global financial pressures, we have not been able to meet our financial targets and the timeframe granted to us has expired,” wrote Princell Hair, who has been chief executive since July 2020, in a memo to employees. “Effective immediately, BNC will cease live production and file for bankruptcy.”

The Black News Channel’s abrupt closure comes just a year after the network revamped its programming, featuring high-profile commentators like Charles Blow and Marc Lamont Hill, and added a new morning show. It also shows the difficulties traditional cable TV channels face as cable cutting continues and consumers turn away from channel choice.

The network, co-founded by former Oklahoma Congressman JC Watts, is largely backed by auto parts billionaire and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan. Mr Khan had been investigating a sale of part or all of the network for the past few months, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Khan, who has invested around $50 million in BNC, will not invest further, according to some people. A spokesman for Mr Khan had no comment.

By 5 p.m. ET Friday, the network will begin running old programs that one of those familiar with the matter said will continue for the rest of this month.

BNC’s more than 200 employees didn’t receive their paychecks this week, people said. They would not receive any severance pay or benefits beyond the end of the month, people said.

“Arrangements have been made that the company will pay all wages earned but not paid to terminated employees,” BNC’s board of directors said in a statement Friday night.

Under Mr Hair’s leadership, BNC entered into distribution deals with most pay-TV operators, including Comcast corps

Xfinity, Dish network corp

and DirectTV. The network said it reached around 50 million homes.

According to a person familiar with the matter, BNC did not receive any fees from distributors for broadcasting its channel. Instead, the network relied on advertising revenue and funding from its backer — a practice common to most emerging cable channels.

The network’s viewership peaked at 80,000 this week, according to Nielsen data, as it aired widespread coverage of the confirmation hearings of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman to be nominated for the Supreme Court.

Mr. Hair, a television veteran whose resume includes CBS,

CNN, Turner Broadcasting and NBC Sports had attempted to disrupt the cable television news landscape, in which audiences were divided between major networks such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Fox News parent company Fox Corp. and Wall Street Journal parent News Corp share common ownership.

Mike Hill, a host of the Black News Channel’s daily morning news show Start Your Day With Sharon and Mike, said he was surprised the network was shut down so quickly. He said he recognized there were red flags like layoffs in December and Thursday’s company-wide email about late paychecks.

“Like any other startup network, there were obstacles along the way, but we overcame them,” said Mr. Hill. “Hopefully something like this comes around again, and hopefully it gets the marketing it needs, the attention it needs and the viewership it needs.”

write to Lillian Rizzo at Lillian.Rizzo@wsj.com

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Appeared in the print edition of March 26, 2022 as “Black News Channel Closes After 2 Years”.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/black-news-channel-shuts-down-two-years-after-debut-11648237389?mod=pls_whats_news_us_business_f Black News Channel is closing two years after its debut

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