BBC TO AIM NEWS CHANNEL AT U.S.: BUT PROGRAM MAY BE TOUGH AD SELL

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British Broadcasting Corp. is gearing up for a U.S. launch of its 24-hour news and information channel by early 1999, and is in negotiations with Tele-Communications Inc. for distribution, said Mark Young, managing director of BBC World, its international arm.

To trumpet its plans, the BBC held a dinner in New York for global media managers at U.S. ad agencies.

But media executives said the BBC's highly regarded news programming will attract only a niche audience in the U.S., and minimal ad support from upscale clients.

CAUTION, ENCOURAGEMENT

"We gave them a good dose of caution and encouragement," said Kelly Konis Whyte, senior VP-group director, worldwide media, Ammirati Puris Lintas. "It could attract an upscale, affluent client group and viewership that desires that content, but . . . the U.S. market is tough, with lots of competition and clutter."

"They took a lot of flak [from us]," said Kevin Malloy, global client media director at D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. "Here's another news network and who's going to watch it?"

But, Mr. Malloy noted, U.S. entry "will test how committed the BBC is to new markets."

For the BBC, a U.S. launch gives the channel global reach. BBC launched its news service in Asia in mid-1996 followed by Latin America later in the year. It boasts 50 million homes worldwide.

"The key difference we have with CNN is that we will be the only international information channel," said Rachel Attwell, deputy controller (world), TV news, at BBC World.

She noted BBC World will carry news bulletins and longer lifestyle stories about travel, science and fashion that are edited for U.S. audiences and differ from

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