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TV NEWS: ABC News Now Expands Into Europe

As part of a significant international expansion plan, ABC News has launched the first international version of its ABC News Now service in three European territories on the Internet service Zattoo, reports Paul Slavin, senior VP of digital at ABC News.

The service will initially be available in Germany, Spain and Belgium, but should expand its reach into additional markets, including the U.K., in the next six months.

“We plan on significantly increasing our international presence,” Slavin noted in an interview. “It is critically important for our news coverage and our survival to expand overseas and into broadband band other digital platforms.”

ABC signaled a renewed interest in international markets in the fall of 2006, when it announced plans to launch a news channel in India, a proposal that it still awaiting regulatory approval.

This October, ABC opened seven new international bureaus, its largest international expansion in two decades. Each of the bureaus—which are located in Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, Dubai, New Delhi and Mumbai in India, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Nairobi, Kenya—are staffed with a single correspondent, known as a digital reporter, that primarily creates content for the digital platforms.

ABC News is also adding an additional person in the existing Moscow and Beijing bureaus, for a total of nine new international digital reporters.

That marks a significant shift in the international presence of U.S. broadcast networks. During the late 1980s and 1990s, all three of the major broadcast networks shuttered international bureaus and pulled back from international markets.

Now, however, both ABC and NBC seem to be reconsidering that position. Last week, NBC News announced that it would launch MSNBC in South Africa.

“There was not a lot of outlets for international stories when we were just serving our television newscasts and there were other ways to cover international stories” without bureaus, Slavin noted. “It is hard to justify a bureau in a country when maybe four stories a year get on the air. Now, with the internet and with the cost of distributing content getting so much cheaper, we see international as significant opportunity and we are making a significant investment to become an international organization.”

Slavin notes that they are looking for all types of distribution for the ABC News Now channel and content.

“Broadband is probably the easiest” way for a newer channel to expand, “but we will utilize every platform from cable, satellite, IPTV, broadband and mobile,” he says.

He also notes that ABC is looking for content partnerships to help expand their international presence and customize their international services. “You will see some announcements in that area shortly,” he noted.