NBC, Dow finalizing Euro-Asia marriage

Merger designed to countereffect non-profitable international ventures

NEW YORK — NBC and Dow Jones & Co. on Tuesday are expected to confirm plans to merge their competing European and Asian business news channels, forming a new joint venture to operate them.

Although CNBC in the U.S. has been profitable and is growing, the overseas channels have mounted losses in the tens of millions of dollars, and the merger is designed to stem that red ink by eliminating competition, much as NBC did Stateside when it bought Financial News Network shortly after launching CNBC in 1989.

Terms weren’t disclosed, but there may be a payment from one side to equalize investments made to date in the troubled operations, sources said.

As a sweetener, Dow Jones also has agreed to provide a short exclusive window to CNBC in the U.S. on exclusive stories from its news service and Wall Street Journal daily, as well as use of its correspondents for on-air appearances. That will give CNBC an added advantage, besides its already stronger distribution, against upstart rival CNNfn. Dow also may collaborate on daytime programming for U.S. cable channel and supply other financial information.

The deal’s delay — talks have been ongoing for more than six months — stemmed from complex issues in part involving Dow’s overseas partners, both affiliates of cable programmer TCI. Spokesmen at NBC and Dow declined comment.

Dow’s 50%-owned Asia Business News, launched in 1993, reaches 18 million homes, while its majority-held European Business News, formed in 1995, reaches 30 million, mostly satellite-delivered homes.

CNBC Asia, launched in 1995, is available in about 7 million homes, while CNBC Europe, begun last year, reaches 14 million homes, with some programming also supplied to the broader NBC Europe general entertainment channel.

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