Sun News Network has gone dark.
The television station that launched in 2011 promising "hard news and straight talk" went off the air at 5 a.m. Friday morning. No on-air announcement was made as the screen went dark and was replaced moments later with the Sun TV logo.
The closing will mean the loss of 150 full-time jobs and affect about 200 employees and contributors.
"This is an unfortunate outcome; shutting down Sun News was certainly not our goal," said Julie Tremblay, President and CEO of Media Group and Sun Media Corporation in a release Friday. "Over the past four years, we tried everything we could to achieve sufficient market penetration to generate the profits needed to operate a national news channel. Sadly, the numerous obstacles to carriage that we encountered spelled the end of this venture."
The future of the network was thrown into question late last year when Postmedia Network Canada Corp. announced its intention to buy the English-language Sun Media newspapers and digital news sites from Quebecor Inc. for $316-million – but not Sun News Network. That left the TV network effectively orphaned, as it drew its name and some of its content from the Sun chain.
In recent months, Quebecor tried to broker a sale of the station to ZoomerMedia Ltd., which is led by TV veteran Moses Znaimer, but the talks failed, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.
The news came as a surprise even to some staff at the channel. On Thursday, two employees told The Globe and Mail they had been told nothing about the station's future and expected to be at work next week.
The channel was known for provocative and opinionated personalities such as Ezra Levant, who drew rebukes from regulators more than once. During daytime hours, its programs often drew just a few thousand viewers. But it may be remembered as much for some of its more outlandish moments, including coverage of a charity boxing match between federal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau and since-suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau, and Ford Nation, a highly touted program hosted by Rob and Doug Ford that was cancelled less than 24 hours after its debut episode aired.
It also suffered heavy financial losses due to low ratings, losing $14.8-million in 2013, and $46.7-million over one three-year span.
In 2013, the Sun News Network vice-president Kory Teneycke – a former director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper – tried to persuade Canada's broadcast regulator to give the channel "mandatory carriage," which would have required that it be carried on all basic cable packages, boosting its audiences and its revenue. Mr. Teneycke argued at the time that anything less would be a "death sentence" for the network.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) denied the request. But in late 2013, it gave Sun News Network some relief, introducing new rules that force television distributors to carry all five national news channels, including Sun News Network, offering them both à la carte and bundled in a package of discretionary channels.
Mr. Teneycke did not return calls and e-mails on Thursday, and a Quebecor spokesman declined to comment.
With a report from Simon Houpt