Black News Channel Announces Layoffs Right Before Christmas

Upstart cable news network geared toward Black viewers has been struggling in the ratings

Black News Channel anchors Mike Hill and Sharon Reed are shown with CEO Princell Hair. (Courtesy BNC)
Black News Channel anchors Mike Hill and Sharon Reed are shown with CEO Princell Hair. (Courtesy BNC)

Black News Channel, which is known as BNC, announced layoffs Friday just days before the Christmas holiday.

“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 obtained by TheWrap. “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.”

It was not immediately clear how many staffers will be impacted by the cuts, but BNC employs roughly 300 people.

“We kind of felt this was going to happen,” a staffer who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company told TheWrap Friday.

In a ratings ranking 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. In comparison, the highest-rated cable channel out of all 124 is Fox News, which averaged 2.36 million primetime viewers each evening in 2021.

“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 said.

The channel offers 24/7 news, sports and entertainment coverage. The Tallahassee, Florida-based network is available in more than 50 million U.S. homes via linear systems, the network says on its website.

Former Oklahoma Republican congressman J.C. Watts and veteran broadcast executive Bob Brillante launched the network in February 2020, after over a decade of planning. Shad Khan, who owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has invested a reported $50 million in the channel and now holds a majority stake.

Among the network’s main anchors are Sharon Reed, Mike Hill, Laverne McGee, Del Walters, Marc Lamont Hill, Kelly Wright and Charles Blow.

BNC did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on the number of employees being laid off.