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TV NEWS WARS RAGE IN EUROPE, ASIA; PRINT HOLDS ITS WORLDWIDE BASE

By Published on .

Think of the top TV news brands in the world and names like CNN, the BBC and Rupert Murdoch come to mind. But while all are dominant players in global news, it is a decidedly American brand, NBC, that is emerging as the most ubiquitous TV news programmer in the world.

With its acquisition of Europe's Super Channel last year and the rollout of ANBC in Asia and Canal de Noticias in Latin America, NBC News programming is now seen in about 180 million homes worldwide, about 30 million more households than CNN.

"It's a fact our distinguished colleagues at CNN would like to keep quiet," says Andrew Lack, president of NBC News.

Mr. Lack acknowledges that NBC News has a long way to go before it rivals CNN's reputation as a global news brand, but he is confident that the peacock network will start implementing plans that will close the gap soon.

For example, NBC currently is in the process of reformatting some of the news elements of NBC Super Channel to provide a more pan-European flavor, including a continental version of "The Today Show" that will offer European news, weather and entertainment features delivered by European news personalities, such as counterparts to "Today's" U.S. news anchor Matt Lauer and weatherman Willard Scott.

Currently, NBC Super Channel airs an eclectic mix of entertainment, sports and news programming, including NBC News programs and business news programming from U.S. sister cable channel CNBC.

And NBC will export that brand to Asia by mid-1995. Advertising Age International has learned NBC will split its ANBC channel into two separate services, CNBC Asia, offering 24 hours of business news, and Super Channel NBC Asia, offering a mix of news, entertainment and sports, similar to the European service.

NBC executives say ANBC initially was a stop-gap programming measure that combined the general programming and business services, because sufficient satellite space was not available.

Initially, ANBC was available to about 20 million Asian households only part-time. But on Jan. 9 NBC leased a berth for a second 24-hour satellite channel, CNBC Asia business news, to start up early this year. That will be followed by the rollout of Super Channel Asia.

Meanwhile, on Jan. 9, NBC also introduced CNBC Europe business news on NBC Super Channel. While CNBC Europe is not a freestanding channel yet, it will provide a distinctive European approach to business news via a partnership with the Financial Times.

"A lot of people are talking about doing a truly pan-European business news channel, but this will be the first," says Tom Rogers, president of NBC Cable and Business Development. (European Business News also makes this claim; see story this page).

When CNBC Asia launches later this year, Mr. Rogers says it will be the first 24-hour channel of live business news.

"We will produce a 10-hour block of live business news out of Asia that will be focused on the Asian markets while the Asian business day is up," he explains. "As that comes to a close, we will move to CNBC Europe and pick that up live. And as that comes to a close, we will come to the U.S. and pick up the Wall Street coverage."

Mr. Rogers says the expanded distribution of the CNBC brand, creates a "second news brand that is very close to rivaling CNN," with about 120 million households and set to grow.

Several other news programmers are making moves to expand globally, including the BBC, Reuters and Dow Jones & Co.

Dow Jones is rolling out EBN and the BBC recently announced plans to enter the U.S. in 1995 with a 24-hour news channel called BBC World. BBC World plans to start up in Europe and New Zealand in February.

"The global marketplace is expanding quite rapidly. It's often portrayed as a battle to the death between three or four [services], but what is really happening is that the marketplace is expanding," says Peter Vesey, VP of CNN International.

Mr. Vesey discounted NBC's global inroads, noting that the NBC News brand consists of disparate news programs, as opposed to CNN's 24 hour news wheel of continuous programming.

Conversely, NBC News' Mr. Lack boasts that the NBC news constitutes more vital and original programming.

Ironically, NBC and CNN parent Turner Broadcasting System have been in talks recently that could lead to a merger of all or parts of their companies.

If that were to transpire, Mr. Lack said they won't compete.

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