Blog Post

TV Traction: BBC Gets Comcast Leap, Al Jazeera Relies On Online

Two of the biggest global news brands are gaining a bigger U.S. foothold – but, while one has finally broken in to the TV mainstream, the other is making greater headway online.

BBC Worldwide has taken a great leap forward in getting U.S. carriage for its BBC World News channel by striking a deal with Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), the largest U.S. cable operator.

Comcast’s Xfinity TV is adding the channel in six major markets, including Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, with plans to offer it in nearly 15 million U.S. homes by 2012’s end.

BBC Worldwide (the BBC’s commercial and overseas wing) has been building up its content and ad sales operation for BBC.com/news over the last couple of years, but had still been seeking significant TV traction beside its own BBC America channel. NPR executive editor Dick Meyer is leaving to run and expand the BBC’s U.S. news coverage as the 2012 presidential election nears; previously Meyer was at CBS (NYSE: CBS) News.

Al Jazeera English, which is now a firm fixture on many TVs outside the Arab world, has still not yet made the leap in the States.

It is available in a handful of U.S. city cable networks in New York; Washington DC; Burlington, VT; Toledo, OH; and Bristol, RI. But, as online head Mohamed Nanabhay told paidContent in 2009, most of the new carriage is coming from new online platforms like Boxee, Roku, Livestation, Al Jazeera, YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) and Pulse, as well as through Creative Commons re-use.

The latest are Google TV and the Chrome browser. While the app for the former offers text stories, on-demand video and a notification ticker, with live streams coming later, the browser extension includes the live channel as well as a Chrome-esque on-demand video carousel.

While large-scale cable traction continues to be elusive, the coming connected TV boom could mean an even bigger opportunity for Al Jazeera to get to U.S. televisions.

Nanabhay (via Broadband TV News): “We are constantly looking for new ways to deliver our content and interact with our audiences. Our online philosophy has always been to make our world-class content available to audiences on the platforms they choose.”