NBC Uni goes int'l channel surfing

Plan aims to expand local TV brands to 58 new nations

NBC Universal on Wednesday unveiled ambitious global rollout plans for new television channels, with the goal of launching 20 additional local channels in 23 countries across Europe, Asia and Latin America (HR 4/5).

The plan is part of a drive to more than double annual revenue from the company's Global Networks Division within the next two to three years, according to NBC Universal International president Peter Smith.

Existing NBC Universal channel brands, including Sci Fi, 13th Street and Universal Channel, are being targeted to debut in markets across Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia and India. Channels also will be extended in the existing Global Networks territories of Western Europe and Latin America.

NBC Universal now has 12 local versions of its entertainment channels in 35 countries.

The new plan calls for the number of local channels to more than double to 32, reaching 58 countries, beginning with the launch of Sci Fi in Latin America and Sci Fi and 13th Street in the Netherlands.

The initiative forms part of a groupwide strategy to sharply increase the reach of NBC Universal's filmed entertainment, network and cable television operations, which generated international revenue of nearly $3 billion last year.

It follows the recent pledge by NBC Universal president and CEO Jeff Zucker to make international growth one of his strategic priorities, alongside content creation and digital expansion.

Last month, NBC Universal unveiled its first major digital step since Zucker became chief executive in February as it joined forces with News Corp. to launch an online video distribution network.

The channel expansion follows a strategic review, led by Zucker and Smith, that identified ways to increase NBC Universal's international presence working across all of the company's divisions.

The Global Networks plan is expected to see channels launched in such key markets as Portugal, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Russia and India.