CNN in fierce competition for lucrative, emerging
Middle Eastern Markets
CNN fends off its competitors in foreign markets
Zach Coleman Staff
CNN is no longer the only channel on the
dial for all-news television. Globally, its dominant position is being
contested by BBC World and a host of regional and national networks, such
To keep the eyes of the world on CNN, the
Atlanta-based news group is rolling out new programs for global audiences
and narrowing its focus on individual regions. It now has its first 24-hour
channel in another language and is broadcasting in a third language on
a trial basis.
"Audiences around the world now have significant
choice," said Chris Cramer, managing editor and newly promoted executive
vice president of CNN International. "We've got a fantastic amount of competition,
particularly in Europe, but we're a market leader. They're all trying to
get their hands on our revenues because almost none are making money."
The CNN News Group, now owned by Time Warner
Co., had an operating profit of $250 million on revenues of $800 million
last year. Its profitable CNN International channel reaches 107 million
homes in 207 countries as well as 7 million U.S. homes.
BBC World, which is 10 years younger, reaches
50 million homes in 174 countries. Strangely, it isn't yet available in
Britain, but plans call for entering the United States in 1998. BBC World
expects to turn a profit in two to three years.
Before Cramer joined CNN International
from the BBC last year, 60 percent of CNN International's programming came
from the flagship CNN domestic channel. Today, 80 percent of CNN International's
programming is self-produced.
New programs include "Insight," a half-hour,
single-subject current affairs program, and "Q&A With Riz Khan," a
half-hour call-in show.
In June, CNN International separated its broadcast
into four regional signals, or feeds -- Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Europe
and the United States. Each region is developing its own programming and
aligning its schedule to local time zones.
The first new programs are "Asian Edition,"
a 15-minute prime-time review of top regional stories, and "Asia This Day,"
an exclusive, half-hour morning roundup of leading regional and world stories.
The first of two hours of new European
programs will start next month. Latin America will have new programs by
February. This fall, Europe and Africa will see their own versions of "Inside
Asia," a weekly, half-hour news magazine show.
By next summer, Asia, Europe and Latin
America each will have two to five hours of exclusive programs, Cramer
said. "The logic of regionalization is you get closer to the audience."
CNN International next month will yield
four of its 10 hours a day to its financial-news sibling, CNNfn, on their
shared U.S. feed; last month it gained its first hour of time on the main
`It's not cheap'
CNN International will spend at least $3 million
on regionalization each year for the next five years. The network is building
new regional control centers within its Atlanta headquarters and improving
its production centers in London and Hong Kong. About 36 jobs have been
"It's not cheap," said Cramer. "It's a
pretty ringing endorsement from Turner [Broadcasting System Inc.] and Time
CNN went full-time bilingual in March with
the launch of CNN en Espa–ol. The Spanish-language network now reaches
5 million homes in every Latin American country and 314,000 homes in the
United States. It expects to be in 9 million homes by year end. Rival CBS
TeleNoticias is in about 9 million homes in Latin America and Spain. About
two-thirds of CNN en Espa–ol's news is gathered exclusively for that network,
said News Director Chris Crommett.
CNN took a first step into another language
in June with CNN Deutschland, a 15-minute, prime-time roundup of top national
and regional stories, which started showing on CNN International in one
CNN and Time Warner own just under 50 percent
of channel ntv, a 24-hour news network in Germany.
Tom Johnson, CEO of the CNN News Group,
said this spring that ntv has lost money for more than five years but could
turn a profit next year. He said more channels like CNN en Espa–ol may
be on the way, mentioning Hindi, Japanese, Arabic, Russian and Chinese
as possible new languages.
CNN pulled out of a Russian joint venture
before it launched and talked inconclusively about a venture with three
members of the Saudi royal family, he said.
The BBC's experiences in China and the
Arab world gave Johnson pause. The BBC's Saudi partner pulled the plug
on their joint-venture Arabic channel last year after it aired a critical
documentary and stories on a dissident. The BBC lost distribution in China
in 1994 after similarly angering its rulers.
Business Chronical: CNN fends off its competitors in foreign markets
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