NBC, in a big push toward global television, has acquired a majority interest in Super Channel, a Pan-European satellite and cable channel that reaches nearly 60 million homes.
Super Channel is one of Europe's largest satellite and cable channels, but it has consistently lost money since its launch in 1987 as operating costs have far outstripped the network's modest advertising revenue.
NBC hopes to increase viewership--and advertising--by beefing up the amount of news and sports programming on the general entertainment channel. The network also plans to target traveling business people in European hotels.
Network officials said Super Channel will become an outlet for such NBC News programs as "NBC Nightly News" and "Today," in addition to programs such as "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and business news from NBC's CNBC cable channel.
"It has long been viewed that if the right programming sources can be married with Super Channel's distribution, then we'd really be able to put it on the map," said Tom Rogers, executive vice president of NBC, who will oversee the channel's operation.
NBC has acquired a 75% stake in Super Channel along with Credit Lyonnais, the French bank that also owns Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. A source close to the transaction said NBC paid about $25 million.
The remaining 25% will be held by Richard Branson's Virgin Group. NBC and Credit Lyonnais acquired its stake from the Marcucci family, which has been Super Channel's principal owner since 1988.
NBC becomes the latest American media company to stake out a claim in Europe.
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. satellite network BSkyB is now earning a profit after years of substantial losses, and Capital Cities/ABC Inc. has invested in the Pan-European cable channel Eurosports and RTL-2, a German TV network. CNN and MTV are now widely seen throughout Europe.