Black News Channel announces layoffs a week before Christmas

Princell Hair, president and CEO of Black News Channel, was a high-level executive with CNN in Atlanta in the mid-2000s. RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

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Princell Hair, president and CEO of Black News Channel, was a high-level executive with CNN in Atlanta in the mid-2000s. RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

The network, with about 75 employees based in Atlanta, is struggling to draw viewers

Tallahassee-based Black News Channel announced it was laying off an unspecified number of its 300 employees, 75 of whom are based in Atlanta.

The startup network, which has been heavily funded by Jacksonville Jaguars owner and billionaire Shahid Khan, has struggled to draw viewers. The Wrap tracked the Nielsen ratings of 124 basic-cable channels with Fox News at top. BNC came in 123rd with an average of 4,000 viewers at any given time.

According to a memo that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received, CEO Princell Hair broke the news Friday to employees: “I am reaching out to you today with some very unfortunate news about a reduction in our workforce. 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,” he added. “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. ... This is a very difficult day, and a reminder that stages of our journey will be arduous and painful.”

Hair noted that “we also recognize and are saddened that this change is coming at this time of year. "

BNC is available in about 50 million households.

A network spokesman declined to comment further.

Hair, in an interview with the AJC earlier this year, said the company had plans to move its headquarters to Atlanta at some point in the future.

The network’s morning show, co-hosted by former CBS46 host Sharon Reed and sportscaster Mike Hill work remotely, with Reed in Atlanta and Hill splitting time between Los Angeles and Atlanta. New York Times columnist Charles Blow, who has a weekday show at 10 p.m., spends time in Atlanta and New York.

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