NATPE Brief

LAS VEGAS — BBC World unveiled Wednesday a long-term partnership agreement with Discovery Communications, to distribute the BBC World News channel in the U.S. The partnership builds upon the success of the BBC’s entertainment channel, BBC America, which is also distributed by Discovery.

BBC World News will be the sole international news channel in Discovery’s distribution portfolio, at a time when research studies show a significant increase in demand from U.S. audiences for foreign news. (Even the controversial Arab news channel, Al Jazeera, is gearing up to launch an alternative Mideast-focussed English-lingo service to cable carriers in the U.S. )

The news came as BBC chairman Michael Grade delivered a keynote address to NATPE-goers in Las Vegas, in which he put the accent on the need to be forward-thinking and to be unafraid of the quickly coming revolution in the TV biz.

Grade, whose resume includes key stints in both the public and commercial media in both the U.K. and the U.S., also stressed that the BBC’s World Service remains strong precisely because it is “editorially independent” of government pressure or interference.

The BBC World News channel has access to the British pubcaster’s global newsgathering operation, enabling the channel to go beyond the sound bite to provide analysis of global issues affecting the world.

BBC World News is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 128 million homes in 200 countries but, until now, it has not been available in the U.S.

“Discovery Communications is the market leader, committed to delivering the highest quality channels and marketing support to the U.S. multichannel industry. That experience, plus Discovery’s proven track record and considerable success with the BBC brand to date, will be invaluable in the roll-out of the BBC World News channel in the U.S.,” BBC World’s director of distribution Jeff Hazell said.

“U.S. consumers are ready for this unique news service – one that provides an impartial, global perspective on domestic and world events,” added Bill Goodwyn, the affiliate sales prexy for Discovery Networks.

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