Closure displays challenges of operating a cable network in streaming era
In a move coming seemingly out of nowhere, the Black News Channel announced Friday it was suspending operations.
Targeted to black viewers and others of color, BNC launched on February 10, 2020 – just a month before the pandemic took a hold of the U.S. Based in Tallahassee, Fla., the network was meant to be an alternative to cable news networks who often lacked analysis from minorities’ perspectives.
Live programming on BNC ceased at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, but remains on the air at least though the next week with taped rerun programming, likely to honor commitments from advertisers.
The channel had some challenges in getting widespread cable distribution and suffered through financial problems as well. A story surfaced late Thursday of the channel failing to make payroll with paychecks and direct deposits being delayed. One of the major investors in BNC was Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who decided not to invest further due to it bleeding money.
BREAKING NEWS: Black News Channel @BNCNews staffers are angry and demanding answers after getting an email yesterday that their paychecks are being delayed. I have been inundated with phone calls, texts and emails from staffers on this issue. @bnc_ceo Princell Hair told me 1/5 pic.twitter.com/nxietWo7bf— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) March 25, 2022
With the closure, 230 employees were let go on top of the 120 staffers who were laid off since Christmas. The network also faced allegations and lawsuits over gender discrimination, with the National Association of Black Journalists criticizing the work culture at Black News Channel, where many of its members were employed. The organization is assisting those affected by the shutdown.
The end of Black News Channel comes as the number of consumers are “cutting the cord”, shedding expensive cable and satellite subscriptions for cheaper alternatives as the industry is shifting to a streaming model. At the dawn of 2022, NBC Sports Network (or NBC SN) closed, shifting their properties to CNBC and USA Network. Also likely on the way out is conservative One America News Network, who is losing their distribution deal with DirecTV. Five years ago, this space named twelve channels in trouble and of those listed, only ESPN Classic (December 2021) and Chiller (December 2017) shuttered and two others (Vice TV and Oxygen True Crime) changed their names and format.
According to The Wrap, Nielsen ratings show Black News Channel on the bottom of the ratings heap, with an average of 4,000 viewers a day – even lower than Nexstar’s struggling NewsNation. In addition to be carried on DirecTV, Xfinity, Spectrum, and Dish, Black News Channel operated a “FAST” (free advertiser-supposed television) streaming channel called BNC Go, available on numerous streaming platforms.
Black News Channel joins other news channels in the television graveyard. In 2019, Nexstar shuttered longtime local news cable channel CLTV after a 26-year run. In 1983, the Satellite News Channel – an early competitor to CNN, was closed after it was sold to Ted Turner – who happened to be the then-owner of CNN. Financial News Network – who had an early affiliation with WPWR-TV here in the early 1980s, was absorbed into rival CNBC in 1991 after it was bought out by NBC.