NBC Sky World News Plots Summer Launch

The company known for American news staples like “Today” and “Meet The Press” wants to create similar journalism landmarks for audiences around the world.

NBCUniversal and Sky, both owned by parent Comcast Corp., will this summer launch NBC Sky World News, a news service aimed at English-speaking audiences around the globe. The company intends to recruit new talent as well as 100 employees to produce programming, says Deborah Turness, president of NBC News International and the executive overseeing the new outlet’s launch. NBCU and Sky will also open ten new international bureaus, she adds, “in places we feel news is under-reported.”

“We see an opportunity to begin an approach that isn’t filtered through a U.S. perspective or a British perspective or any national perspective,” says Turness in an interview from a London facility that will eventually serve as the main newsroom for the network. “We can bring our journalism to the wide world, but also invest heavily in global journalism so we can add to the story and really create an approach and product that can deliver the global perspective we believe the world wants right now.”

NBCUniversal declined to specify how much is being spent on the new initiative. Comcast in 2018 secured control of European satellite broadcaster Sky PLC for around $39 billion.

The new outlet will put NBC News more squarely in competition with other news organizations that do a sizable business with English-speaking consumers in international regions. AT&T’s CNN runs a separate international broadcast apart from its U.S. networks that includes a mix of programming tailored to overseas audiences as well as some of its U,S. shows. And the British Broadcasting Corporation also operates a sizable news business that covers various parts of the world. “We recognize this will take a while, take a beat to get started and to build,” says Turness.

The BBC declined to comment on the new Comcast venture. Representatives from CNN did not respond to a query seeking comment.

Comcast readies the business as many U.S. media companies are pursuing new audiences around the world. Discovery Inc. in 2015 acquired full control of Eurosport, a collection of sports networks that broadcast in Europe and Asia, and has struck rights deals that give it the ability to distribute the Olympics in Europe through 2024. In 2018, the company secured the rights to stream Professional Golf Association events outside the U.S. for a period of 12 years.  One of CBS Corp.’s biggest acquisitions before merging with Viacom was its 2017 purchase of Australia’s Network Ten.

International alliances give traditional U.S. media outlets new ability to broaden their base of consumers at a time when streaming-video giants like Netflix and Amazon are courting subscribers around the world. Netflix, which reported fourth-quarter results this week, said subscriber growth was more robust overseas during the period.

Comcast believes it can reach 130 million households in international markets, exclusive of the U.S., says Turness. The company expects to distribute NBC Sky World News via cable, satellite and digital-video in Europe, says Turness, and will use Peacock, the soon-to-launch NBCUniversal streaming-outlet to reach U.S. viewers, along with other broadband distribution.

Euronews, a European news company in which NBC News has a 25% stake, will remain a separate entity, says Turness. Its information is “very much about Europe and for Europeans, whereas we are in a different part of the market.”

Getting NBC News into international markets has been one of three big goals set by NBC News Chairman Andy Lack, who returned to the company in 2015, and set about making the company’s news programs more competitive with rivals, while re-orienting the bulk of MSNBC’s programming schedule.  Turness, who was president of NBC News between 2013 and 2017, was dispatched to take on overseas operations after a U,S. stint that included placing anchor Chuck Todd at “Meet The Press” and helping “Today” gain ground after being usurped by ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Turness declined to offer specifics on programming concepts, but did indicate the new outlet would make strong use of NBC News’ international teams. NBC News already has journalists like Richard Engel (above, pictured), the unit’s chief foreign correspondent, and Janis Mackey Frayer, an Asia correspondent. The executive suggested the company was exploring what consumers thought was important and said the new outlet would “cover the great issues impacting all humanity today.”



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