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NBC News Unveils ‘Signal’ Streaming-Video Service

NBC News is joining the parade of traditional news outlets trying to capture the interest of a rising generation of news junkies who get their fix with mobile devices and streaming video.

The NBCUniversal unit, which already produces broadcast programs like “Meet the Press” and “Today,” cable hours including “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Deadline: The White House,” and the Snapchat-based “Stay Tuned” will now turn to broadband. Its new streaming outlet, “NBC News Signal” is slated to launch in mid-2019 and will feature original content.

Older millennials and younger Generation Xers “are hungry for news programming as anybody, and they want to consume it in a different way,” said Nick Ascheim, senior vice president for digital at NBC News Group, in an interview. “We want to meet them there.”

So do many others. NBC News will vie with many entrants in the broadband space. CBS News operates video-streaming hub CBSN. ABC News seeks to give streamers the most important live news at any moment with ABC News Live. Fox News is expected to launch the subscription-video service Fox Nation in weeks to come. And then there’s Cheddar, Vice and others.

All of them are chasing viewers who have traded newspaper headlines for smartphone alerts and the evening news for on-demand video clips. The share of Americans who often get news on a mobile device – 58% – has nearly tripled since 2013, according to a report issued in July by Pew Research. In that year, only 21% of U.S. citizens did. That sharp increase has been fueled by an embrace of the technology by older Americans and lower-income families, according to the study, a sign that early adopters aren’t the only ones who have moved to a mobile-centric life.

NBC News Signal is already up and running. Its programming is available on NBCNews.com, in the NBC News mobile and OTT apps, on PlutoTV and via YouTube and Twitter. A show anchored by Simone Boyce, who came abroad in July, will move from streaming at 7 p.m. on just Thursdays to airing every weeknight at that time, later in the current quarter. Additional daily programming, including a morning and afternoon show and hourly news updates called “Briefly’s,” will launch later this quarter and in early 2019.

Signal viewers may see some familiar NBC News and MSNBC faces, but they will not see any shows from those outlets. All of its programming will be original, though likely created with talent and crew from MSNBC and NBC News. One of the challenges NBC has to navigate with Signal is making sure it does not cannibalize viewers from MSNBC, which generates healthy revenue from advertising and affiliate fees. “If you want to see Rachel Maddow, you still have to get a cable subscription,” said Ascheim.

The tone of the programming won’t be as formal as what a viewer might see in more traditional outlets, the executive said. “The tone is more conversational,” he said. But Signal aims to deliver more context and depth than the typical Twitter-distributed video clip. “People get alerts and headlines. The have a sense of what’s happening, but they do not feel deeply informed,” said Aschiem. “We want to bring them some of that depth, some of that context, help them make sense of things.”

NBC News will feature some political programming on Signal in the days leading up to the midterm elections.  Steve Kornacki’s digital show “218: Race for the House” will air daily at 12pm ET and on election day, November 6th, Katy Tur will host a pre-show on the network from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m eastern.

Erica Fink and Christine Cataldi are the executive producers for the network. Rashida Jones, senior vice president of specials for NBC News and MSNBC, is the executive in charge of programming.

Signal will contain advertising, said Ascheim, who expresses big ambitions for the venture. “We hope to be up and running all day long, obviously, and we want to be widely distributed across a multitude of platforms.”

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