Euronews reopens Brussels doors

Challenging future lay ahead for small channel

BRUSSELS — European news channel Euronews re-opened its Brussels office yesterday, in the presence of several senior execs bringing the message that the CNN wannabe was in rude health. With a much smaller budget than competitors, however, and new market entrants on the way, its future remains challenging.

Launched in 1993, France-based Euronews broadcasts simultaneously in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. It now reaches 144 million households, 141 million of which are in Europe. This is four times as many as it had at launch and more than both CNN Intl. and BBC World in the region. “We have 5.5 million viewers in Europe who watch every day via cable and satellite, plus 2 million on terrestrial TV,” channel boss Philippe Cayla told Belgian daily La Libre Belgique. “This makes us market leader, ahead of CNN Intl. with 2.3 million and BBC World with 1.4 million.”

Euronews could be under threat, however, from an international French-language news channel planned by its principal shareholder, state-backed France Tilivisions, and French commercial broadcaster TF1. The project, backed by president Jacques Chirac as a way of increasing French influence across the globe, is causing controversy as the state already finances international Francophone channel TV5, Euronews and the Franco-German Arte. In addition, proposed new net would not air in France, to avoid competition with TF1’s existing newscaster LCI. Its proposed budget of 70 million euros ($88 million) — a fraction of CNN’s $1.5 billion and the BBC international division’s $755 million — is also already stretching those involved.

Cayla thinks the fact that proposed channel will be in French only means it will not be a direct competitor to Euronews.

France Tilivisions owns a 28.1% stake in Euronews, which is also backed by 18 other European pubcasters. Net has an annual budget of $37.7 million, but hopes to rake in more cash from increased ad revenues and possible financial backing from EU executive body the Commission.

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