NBC News Execs Tout $30M Euronews Deal, Increased International Reach

Euronews headquarters HQ - H 2016
Courtesy of Euronews

It will be rebranded EuronewsNBC and cover "Europe's story" and the rise of populism in Europe and U.S., with NBC News' Deborah Turness saying "one plus one equals three" in the partnership.

NBC News is set to close its acquisition of a 25 percent stake in European news network Euronews on Thursday, with the partners unveiling Wednesday that it will be co-branded EuronewsNBC.

NBC News top executives said the deal, worth roughly $30 million according to sources, will further their goal of becoming a bigger player in international markets. On its website, Euronews, based in Lyon, says it is the most-watched news channel in Europe with nearly 500 journalists, reaching 434 million homes across 158 countries on TV and digital platforms.

The investment will go into expanded news coverage and programming across Europe, with Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris continuing to control a majority stake in Europe's answer to CNN. The co-branding is expected to be completed on TV and digital platforms by year's end. 

Deborah Turness, president of NBC News International, will lead the NBC side of the collaboration, providing editorial and programming leadership and strategic guidance, working in partnership with Euronews CEO Michael Peters.

The deal will see the two companies get access to each other's news gathering, with Euronews expected to benefit from NBC News' digital content and programming expertise, while providing content and resources from Europe for use on NBC News and MSNBC programs and platforms.

"Euronews is a unique news organization, with unmatched reach and scale in 12 languages," said Turness. "Together NBC News and Euronews will strengthen and deepen the commitment to European journalism and the [Euronews] 'All Views' brand. We will create compelling programming and content that will give voice to the people, the views and the diversity of Europe. It’s an immensely exciting time to be investing in Europe's story."

On a conference call with reporters, she explained that NBC News has been looking "to grow and to extend our brand and to look at how we can grow internationally," and "we believe that [in the case of this deal] one plus one equals three, that together we can do things that neither of us could have done on our own." She added: "There is no other news organization that can offer the scale and depth that Euronews has."

Turness also said that Euronews' "All Views" positioning and brand vision was "incredibly compelling," adding: "I don't see another news channel owning or seeking to deepen its commitment to Europe and Europe's story" and "real journalism" in that space.

"It's fortuitous that at this moment when our new partnership begins there is an incredibly vibrant story politically that goes through to grassroots across Europe — from Brexit to what happened in France, before that in Holland, in Germany in the future — where is Europe going, where is the European model going?" she told reporters. "You see the polarization with the rise of populism, [where] many of the same driving factors exist in the United States and pushed Donald Trump [into] the White House." Turness said "truly reflecting what is happening" across different countries was exciting for her as a news person and producer.

"If we had started with a blank slate, we still could not have designed a better partner for NBC News as we look to strengthen our global reach," said Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC. "Euronews has unmatched scale as well as the unique ability to offer international coverage rooted in a local sensibility in every country and language it spans."

Peters argued that "the expertise of NBC News combined with the uniqueness of Euronews’ European DNA, will allow us to fully realize our 'All Views' editorial philosophy." He added: "This unrivaled collaboration reflects our shared commitment to unbiased reporting. It also strengthens Euronews’ mission to empower people around the world with independent information they can trust. In the competitive international news market, Euronews aims to be the go-to media outlet for expertise on European affairs."

On the call, he said the partners have earmarked "a significant budget, which is with six zeroes," to build out the correspondents' network across Europe's big capitals. Turness added that "we need to be in those critical centers" and that while Lyon will remain EuronewsNBC's headquarters and "engine room," Brussels would "become increasingly important" along with key other locations across the continent. 

Peters predicted the operation would turn profitable in 2020, adding that it targets to double advertising revenue over the next five years.

What will be the deal's initial on-air impact? "When news breaks, MSNBC ... will be able to turn to Euronews journalists on location, just as Euronews will be able to NBC's journalists for reaction and context and analysis," Turness explained. 

Created in 1993 with the goal of becoming the "European CNN," Euronews was originally owned by a consortium of state-owned European networks, which  became minority shareholders when Sawiris bought a 53 percent stake for a reported price tag of 35 million euros, or around $40 million at the time. 

Peters highlighted that the deal comes amid industry consolidation, including AT&T's $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner and 21st Century Fox's offer for full control of Sky. "We have to review our business models," he told reporters. "We have to review the way we deliver our offer to consumers, and for that we have to be creative."

Peters also highlighted that "many states have decided" in the past decade to "put a lot of money" into the launch of information and news media, including Al Jazeera and Russia Today. "How can you survive if you really stay a small player like we were until now? We are a little bit [like] David against all the Goliaths. But it is time now to think in a different way."

Peters said that often big U.S. media companies come to Europe and "just buy everything, they just take control and supervise everything, just crunching the media," adding that in that sense, the partnership approach behind the NBC News-Euronews deal was different and "something original."