CNN International and BBC World News currently dominate global English-language news coverage, but now US media giant Comcast plans to challenge them with the launch of its own international news service.
Comcast is bringing together two of its subsidiaries, NBC News and Sky, to form NBC Sky World News, an English-language channel that is scheduled to go live this summer.
The move follows Comcast’s $39bn acquisition of UK-based Sky in September 2018 and represents its first major attempt to unite its US and UK news brands. According to Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News, the new channel is also the fulfilment of a longstanding ambition.
“We’ve longed for an international channel,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times. “Going back to the Gulf war when CNN essentially came on to the scene, we knew then at NBC that if you weren’t in the 24-hour news business globally, you weren’t really in the news business.”
He explained that the new entity, which will be based at Sky’s main base in west London, will draw on a combined workforce of 3,500 while it also seeks to recruit an extra 100 to 200 dedicated staff.
Ten new bureaux will open worldwide, extending NBC and Sky’s reporting capabilities by about 50%, and it is expected the new channel will be able to reach 130 million households outside of the US.
To put that in perspective, CNN International and BBC World News each reach just under 500 million households and hotel rooms, while Al Jazeera reaches around 300 million.
And some industry observers have questioned how NBC Sky World News expects to make a profit because it will be unlikely to benefit from the distribution payments that make up more than a third of CNN and BBC World revenues.
“Why go into a sector as mature as international television news?” asked a news executive who the Financial Times did not name. “One thing is for sure: it isn’t to make money. It is like football clubs. It’s good for players and fans, not so much for the owners.”
However, Deborah Turness, president of NBC News International and who is overseeing the channel’s launch, expressed confidence that it would have a distinct voice.
“We see an opportunity to begin an approach that isn’t filtered through a US perspective or a British perspective or any national perspective,” she told Variety.
“We can bring our journalism to the wide world, but also invest heavily in global journalism so we can add to the story and really create an approach and product that can deliver the global perspective we believe the world wants right now.”
Sourced from Financial Times, Variety; additional content by WARC staff