Black News Channel announces layoffs right before Christmas

The Black News Channel offers 24/7 coverage of news, sports, and entertainment

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Black News Channel (BNC) has reportedly reduced its workforce amid reports of declining ratings. 

“I am reaching out to you today with some very unfortunate news about a reduction in our workforce,” said President and CEO Princell Hair in an internal memo, TheWrap reported. “As you know, throughout the course of this year, we have been expanding at a rapid rate. At the same time, the U.S. economy is facing some tough challenges, several of which are heavily impacting the media industry and the revenue streams that fuel our emerging enterprise. I am incredibly proud of this team and all that we have built and accomplished. Your work has been outstanding, but we have reached a point where a considerable adjustment is needed in order to protect the health of our business and keep BNC moving forward.”

According to the report, BNC employs roughly 300 people.

Mike Hill, Sharon Reed, and Princell Hair (Image:BNC)

“We kind of felt this was going to happen,” an unnamed staffer told TheWrap on Friday.

The layoffs follow an earlier report that the Black News Channel inked distribution deals and added new high-profile commentators to its roster. theGrio reported in January that the network launched distribution deals with AT&T Inc.’s DirecTV, Dish Network Corp. and Comcast Corp.’s Xfinity. The new deals reportedly expanded the network’s reach to 52 million households from 2.5 million.

In addition to the network collaborations, commentators Marc Lamont Hill and Charles Blow were tapped to join the organization as hosts of an evening show. Former CBS 46 anchor Sharon Reed joined the team along with Mike Hill to host a morning show.

“Of all 124 cable channels in 2021, BNC tied with for second-to-last place with an average of 4,000 viewers throughout the year, beating only BeIN Sports,” TheWrap wrote. The highest-rated cable channel is Fox News.

“Many employees agree the ratings could have been better had the network spent money on promotions. People don’t watch when they don’t know a network exits,” the BNC staffer told the outlet.

The network, “by black people, for black people,” was created by former Congressman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), theGrio reported. It initially launched in 33 million U.S. households in heavy Black markets, including New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, reported The Hill. The BNC is backed by Pakistani-American billionaire Shahid “Shad” Khan, who owns the Jacksonville Jaguars. Khan has not disclosed the amount of his investment, but a source told The New York Post that it exceeded $25 million.

“I think there needs to be a more comprehensive story told about the African American community, and we’ll have a venue to do that,” Watts previously explained in an NPR interview. “We’re not looking to be liberal or conservative. We want to provide a venue for African Americans to have a voice, to be a part of the dialogue that’s going on in the country, be it incarceration reform or impeachment.”

The BNC, based in Tallahassee, Fla., is available to Spectrum, Xfinity X-1 and Dish network customers. The channel offers 24/7 coverage on news, sports, and entertainment in more than 50 million U.S. homes, per the network’s website.

This article contains additional reporting from Keydra Manns and Dawn Onley.

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