Al Jazeera America’s ratings woes lead to layoffs

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Al Jazeera America hasn’t even been in operation a year, but financial struggles and less-than-stellar ratings figures are already forcing layoffs.

The news organization has handed the pink slip to an untold number of staffers, the New York Post reported, citing sources close to the company.

“They’re not making their numbers or the revenue they thought,” said one, the New York Post said. “They have a really convoluted background of people in from Qatar [which owns it]. They’re don’t really get the U.S. market.”

Al Jazeera America only draws in an average 15,000 viewers a night — which is even less than its flailing predecessor, the Al Gore-backed Current TV, that is bought for $500 million. And in the highly desirable 25- to 54-year-old market, Al Jazeera America only pulls in 6,000 or so viewers, the New York Post reported.

By contrast, the three main networks — NBC, ABC and CBS — pull in an average viewership that’s between 6.8 million and 8.6 million, recent Nielson ratings show. Cable competitors Fox News and CNN bring in — again, respectively — more than a million and nearly half a million, on average.

Al Jazeera launched with great fanfare, hiring more than 800 journalists and news staffers from around the world — among them, former ABC news chief Kate O’Brien.

Ms. O’Brien put out a memo to fellow staffers just recently, however, that warned of a tightening of belts.

“Now it is time to set our sights on new goals, requiring different levels and areas of investment and resources,” the New York Post reported her as writing. “We have reached what I will call our steady-state level of operations and we are bringing our staffing levels into alignment with our long-range plan as per our original business case. As a result, certain parts of our organization will expand or contract and staff levels and resources will be re-calibrated.”

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