London’s Daily Telegraph reports that Thomson Reuters plans to launch a “business television news channel to rival that of Bloomberg and CNBC.” The first part of that may well be true; the second part most certainly is not.
We have no doubt that Thomson Reuters may launch some kind of TV channel; since they’re already producing plenty of video for syndication, they’ve got the infrastructure and could do it on the cheap. But it won’t rival CNBC or any other cable news channel with full distribution in the US.
Here’s why: NBC U’s (GE) CNBC achieved full distribution–95 million odd cable and satellite homes–in the early 90s in the go-go era of new cable channels. Now analogue capacity on those systems is full, and the only way to get carriage for a new channel is if you have the leverage of, say, News Corp. (NWS). And even Rupert Murdoch’s muscle has only been able to do so much for the newly launched Fox Business Network last year: It’s been a struggle just to get the 32 million subscribers it does have — one reason that early ratings have been minuscule. Murdoch’s not the only billionaire who has struggled to break a new business channel: Mayor Mike’s Bloomberg TV, which has been soldiering on since 1994, has 45 million subscribers.
That said, Thomson Reuters could launch a linear channel on the Web, with possible carriage on digital systems, as well as AT&T’s U-verse or Verizon’s FiOS. The model here is ABC’s World News Now, which is produced by a tiny staff in New York and carried on digital tiers of some cable systems, as well as the Web. Or, like Bloomberg TV, Thomson Reuters could launch it as a service to its professional subscribers.
Even so, we’re talking about a micro-business, no threat to the $330 million in estimated profits CNBC took in last year. The world just isn’t clamoring for another business news channel, and cable operators know it.
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