The business news channel will launch as CNBC Asia Business News on February 2, 1998, with a transition period scheduled to allow for a smooth changeover.
"We were looking for an agency which could help us build the identity of the new merged channel quickly and the strong creative history of BBH and their strategic approach to a challenge such as ours were both very attractive," says Paul France, president of CNBC Asia.
The February launch deadline leaves the new Asian network less than two months to unravel and reshape a complex network of distribution deals, co- production arrangements and programming joint- ventures across the region. Details of the new distribution landscape are still being finalized.
Mr. France now reports to a six-member board, including president of Dow Jones & Co's International Group, Karen Elliott House, NBC News president Andrew Lack and four other representatives -- two from Dow Jones and two from NBC.
The new venture will not be expected to yield immediate results. Mr. France said at the announcement of the merger that the new channel would not reach operational profit during 1998.
In its new incarnation, CNBC is expected to reach nearly nine million households on a 24-hour basis and another 30 million part-time multi-channel homes. Both business news networks admit to having chalked up massive losses in the past few years, though exact numbers have never been disclosed.
CNBC's Hong Kong staffers were told December 9 that about 150 editorial and production people will be let go. Redundancy packages include four-months pay plus full vacation allowance for 1998, provided they stay until Hong Kong production shuts down at the end of January. Similar lay-offs are not expected in Asia Business News' Singapore office. ABN employs 120 people in Singapore, 20 in Hong Kong and three in Tokyo.
Both companies deny that the decision signifies a retreat from Hong Kong after the return to mainland Chinese sovereignty in July this year. Ms. Elliott House says the decision was made because of ABN's state-of-the-art facility in Singapore. "This is not a mark against Hong Kong and has nothing to do with censorship," Mr. France adds.
Copyright December 1997, Crain Communications Inc.