Discovery Communications will distribute international news network BBC World News in the U.S. Discovery will now seek cable and satellite carriage for the 24-hour international news channel, which already reaches 128 million homes in 200 countries but has not been available as a stand-alone network in the U.S.
The pairing brings the first international news network to Discovery’s portfolio, which includes 27 entertainment networks, and builds upon Discovery’s current partnership with the BBC to distribute BBC America.
American viewers have had access to daily half-hour BBC World News programming on 229 PBS stations under a 1998 deal with Public Television station WLIW New York. As of now, the programming will still air on PBS.
BBC World programming has also run on BBC America, which reaches some 43 million homes through digital cable and satellite distribution. Discovery has distributed BBC America since its launch in 1998 and runs a BBC World News block weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and a half-hour program at 6 p.m. BBC World News, owned by BBC subsidiary BBC World Ltd., launched in 1995.
Discovery will try to gain carriage for the international news network at a time when cable and satellite companies are already strapped for bandwidth and skeptical about viewers’ appetite for international news.
Upstart 24-hour global news network Al Jazeera International has had a difficult time eking out U.S. distribution for its upcoming spring launch. The network has inked carriage deals in several other countries, including an 8-million-home deal with BSkyB in the U.K., but after months of talks has not yet announced one carriage agreement in America. Plus, global news network CNN International is fully distributed by U.S. cable and satellite providers.
Discovery has no carriage deals to announce as of yet for the network, but a company representative said distributing BBC World News is “a high priority” for its affiliate sales group, which is in talks with cable and satellite providers.