The NBCUniversal unit plans to launch NBC News Now, a free ad-supported news service that will transmit via broadband and is free to anyone, no matter whether they subscribe to NBCU-owned cable networks or not.
The service, which has been known as NBC News Signal and has been available in less obvious fashion in recent months as NBC News experimented with programming, will launch at the beginning of May. “It will be something you can access on Apple TV or Roku or any of those other boxes. We are going to launch with 8 hours of programming, including live updates at the top of every hour, and when breaking news mandates, we’ll go up live as well,” said Noah Oppenheim, the president of NBC News, during an event at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. “So, for folks who don’t have a traditional cable subscription it will be a great way to access the reporting of NBC News.”
NBC will be the latest to enter an increasingly crowded field. Most of the nation’s mainstream TV-news outlets are building out streaming-video hubs that complement their existing products. Fox News Channel last year launched the subscription-based Fox Nation, which offers documentary programs, a look at Sean Hannity’s opening monologue from his radio program, a cooking show from “Fox & Friends” co-anchor Steve Doocy and opinions from Tomi Lahren, among other options.
CBS News in 2014 launched CBSN, a video-streaming service that now has its own group of programs, including a morning show. ABC News Live aims to give viewers a peek at whatever image and action producers feel is the most compelling at any given time of day. CNN has begun offering live feeds of important moments of coverage as well as new series from anchors like Brooke Baldwin and Dana Bash. The news company also operates Great Big Story, a compendium of interesting and colorful video stories about topics that might be of interest to a younger demographic.
The rush to broadband comes, however, as multiple swaths of news aficionados are getting their news video online. “People’s consumption habits are changing rapidly and it’s not limited to just young people,” said Oppenheim. Approximately 93% of adults get at least some news via mobile or desktop, according to a June, 2018, study from Pew Research Center.
NBC News’ streaming work has been available for view for several months. Signal has offered a show anchored by Simone Boyce, who came abroad in July for example. The company has faced a unique challenge: launching the new service without cannibalizing the business of MSNBC, which has seen ratings and ad rates rise since the 2016 presidential election. The broadband service features original programming, but nothing that might give viewers the option of watching Rachel Maddow without paying for cable.
NBC News Now will cultivate stories from a broader array of sources available from its parent company, said Oppenheim. “We will be doing original work that will be specific for the streaming service,” he said, but “we will be drawing from the reporting that takes place across all the other NBC News properties. We will actually be reaching into other corners of NBCUniversal, E News, sports, you name it, for some of that content.” NBC News has connections for overseas reporting as well. It is a shareholder in France-based Euronews and is now a sibling to the Sky News unit of European satellite broadcaster Sky PLC now that parent Comcast has purchased it.
“The combination of Sky News and NBC News makes us the largest news operation in the world,” Oppenheim said.
Separately, NBC News said it would dispatch Al Roker, the veteran “Today” weather correspondent, to the Arctic Circle to report on the effects of climate change. “He will be able to spotlight this issue and the dramatic impact of climate change in a way that I think will get more attention than a print piece in a publication with an unknown byline,” said Oppenheim. ” Al is really passionate about that and we are happy to facilitate.” The executive made his remarks as he discussed NBC News’ commitment to original stories and enterprise reporting, noting the company has increased the size of its investigative unit to 40 journalists from 20 over the past two years.