Comcast’s NBC, Sky to launch new international news channel

Comcast will launch a co-branded international news channel based on regional variants of its news operations in the United States and the United Kingdom.

NBC Sky World News will be available over traditional means — cable and satellite — throughout the eastern hemisphere reaching over 130 million households. The new channel will also stream on Comcast’s forthcoming NBC-branded Peacock service for American viewers later this year.

The new channel would draw upon an existing workforce of 3,500 employees across NBC News and Sky, the latter acquired by NBC’s parent company Comcast last year.  In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, an NBC News executive said an additional 100 to 200 employees would be hired in the coming months, and the channel has tentative plans to launch 10 international news bureaus.

Comcast already operates four rolling news channels, many of which are carried internationally. MSNBC, the company’s flagship news channel, primarily targets American audiences but is also carried on cable and satellite systems in Europe, Africa and Asia.

In recent years, Sky News has targeted international audiences with Sky News International, a commercial-free simulcast of its British feed. The channel also streams free on YouTube and is accessible in the United States over the Internet.

Last year, Comcast acquired a 25 percent stake in Euronews, a pan-European satellite news channel created through a consortium of European public broadcasters.

It was not immediately clear if NBC Sky World News would be replacing MSNBC’s feed outside of the United States or take over the Sky News International feed, but an executive said the channel would immediately be available in over 130 million homes at launch.

The new channel will primarily compete against government-backed news services like Britain’s BBC World News, Germany’s Deutsche Welle and Qatar’s Al Jazeera English as well as CNN International, a global variant of the American channel. The reach of those channels eclipses what NBC Sky World News is expected to bring in its first few months — BBC World News reaches 468 million households around the world, while CNN International is available in 388 million homes and hotels.

Deborah Turness, a former British TV executive who ran NBC News from 2013 to 2017, will lead the project to transform NBC Sky World News into a “global news brand,” the Financial times quoted her as saying.

While MSNBC has focused primarily on political coverage and commentary programming, the Financial Times says NBC Sky World News will put hard news first, with a focus on emerging technologies like social media and mobile phone videos.

“We see an opportunity to begin an approach that isn’t filtered through a U.S. perspective or a British perspective or any national perspective,” Turness said.

The move is the latest by an American media organization to break into the international market as companies based in the United States seek growth beyond the country’s borders.  In 2014, then-CBS Corporation (now ViacomCBS) acquired Britain’s Channel 5 in a $760 million deal. It spent significantly less to acquire Australia’s Network Ten three years later — that deal was valued at $31 million (AUS $41 million).

In 2015, Discovery Communications, a media outlet known for its human interest-based programming, acquired European satellite network Eurosport in a deal valued at $534 million.

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