Overseas TV History

In 1993, NBC (or rather GE, its parent company) took over Super Channel, a struggling pan-European, English-language cable/satellite channel.

Here are some bits and pieces of NBC SuperChannel from 1994:

In 1996, the channel was renamed NBC Europe (but usually referred to as just “NBC” on the air):


Having a think about it… it arguably was a bit more palatable in trying to put that on in the wealthier parts of the country, particularly the south/south-east (the old Southern TV/TVS region), than on a national service like breakfast. And they were certainly pre-empting the mergers that the Thatcherite reforms would bring in the 90s.

But then it would have come down to things (especially since the “quality threshold” disqualified them) like: how much the new network centre would want of their programming - which sounded like going down the same path as the original incarnation of LWT (…and what might work in the south might not work in what was becoming a more diverse greater London) - and also whether the “centralised service” would have also eventually gone down the path of centralising news and other regional content into an east/south-east amorphous blob.

ITV did see that in the 2000s with, say, the Tyne Tees [north-east] and Border [English/Scottish border] regions’ newsrooms up north being merged for a time (which they were eventually told to reinvest in during the last licence review in the early 2010s) - but I’m not sure that would’ve been swallowed in 1991.

Particularly in the case of London - it was arguably a point of difference for ITV, as the BBC lumped London in with their own south-east region until they gave London their own region in 2001. The eventual thing of Carlton and LWT lumping their resources into a single London news identity - something that would’ve never happened when Thames was there I imagine! - probably only helped that.


The 1979 “O Canada” rendition and film, “With Glowing Hearts”, which featured footage from the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, that used by various (mainly CBC) Canadian tv stations:

An animated version was also made, that was used by most CBC stations (excluding Windsor, which has its own locally produced film with another rendition used instead):

(Just imagine what an American or Australian version would look like)
Both versions were still being used by the mid to late 90’s.


And due to the lack of words being used, they also used the hand-drawn animation for the French Radio-Canada TV stations - but they kept using it all the way up until they went 24 hours (2009 or so? certainly a few years after the English CBC stations went all night). It’s certainly a nice touch that was able to bridge the language gap for a bit too.


The acquisition happened on October 1 that same year, buying the 75% stake owned by Videomusic, an Italian music channel owned by Marialina Marcucci and her family. Videomusic had taken over the operations of Super in 1988 (only one year after launch), as the original remit of airing British content from the ITV franchises (which owned a majority stake of the channel), as well as BBC shows and content from the former Music Box network (whose majority owner Virgin took a minority stake on the new channel) failed miserably due to differing audience tastes in the wider pan-European region, as well as demands from British actors unions of paying additional fees given the international scope of Super Channel.

When Videomusic took over, they dropped their production agreement with Music Box, and began producing English-speaking shows from their Italian studios. These weren’t well received, given Music Box’s shows high quality production values; in contrast, Videomusic’s shows were considered amateurish by European viewers, and were dropped by 1990. Additionally, more American shows began to be broadcast on the channel. Two things remained however: the airing of ITN World News (which originated on Super Channel) and BBC-produced Goodyear Weather forecasts.

Immediately after the NBC takeover, they began integrating many of its news programming to the service, including airing Today and the NBC Nightly News, initially live via satellite with the US, but later airing as a heavily edited, tape-delayed version. Space which US affiliates use for local cut-ins were replaced by ITN World News updates. Some shows from CNBC (non-business programming mostly), as well as Financial Times-produced programming were also added to the schedule.

On 1994, NBC plastered its Peacock on the channel presentation, and more Peacock involvement happened: NBC began airing its late night shows on the later prime time fringe (advertising under the “Where the Stars Come Out at Night” moniker), although most of the prime time programming remained targeted to the European business audience. The BBC-produced weather bulletins were replaced by short updates provided by WNBC meteorologists, but the ITN World News stayed on air. However, little to no NBC prime time series were aired, with the only such cases happening for already cancelled programming in the US. However, in its final years as an European channel, NBC tried to place its relatively successful Saturday prime time lineup of Profiler and The Pretender to boost ratings, but it wasn’t rewarded with a ratings increase.

Operations of the channel were also moved to the GE building in Hammersmith; this allowed NBC to launch CNBC Europe by March 1996; it originally took CNBC US programming straight from satellite, with European shows produced by the Financial Times. This wouldn’t last long: NBC agreed to buy European Business News from Dow Jones in December 1997, and its programming was integrated into CNBC by the following February of 1998.

At the same time, NBC gave up on the NBC Europe operation due to its constant low ratings and poor revenue. It found later a buyer on Deutsche Fernsehnachrichten Agentur, a member of German newspaper Rheinischer Post, based out of Düsseldorf. NBC took a non-controlling stake in exchange for the acquisition. DFA took the decision to refocus the operation into a strictly German audience, and the pan-European uplink was dropped on June 30, 1998, with its signal moving to the digital-only Hot Bird 5 satellite.

A temporary schedule consisting of CNBC Europe and imported shows was put in place, until a formal schedule was launched on November 30, with CNBC Europe airing on daytimes, the NBC late night shows during prime time, and a teenage-oriented computer, entertainment and lifestyle block, NBC GIGA, produced from Düsseldorf, airing during the early evening slots. It quickly expanded to encompass almost the entire schedule.

However, in 2003, NBC took a majority stake in DFA, until eventually taking it over in fully by late 2004 (now as part of NBC Universal). Although GIGA remained (although it moved to Berlin to cut costs), NBC wanted to transform it fully as a films and series channel, although its satellite license required it to retain some degree of variety; hence, on 29 September 2005, NBC renamed the channel Das Vierte, with prime time programming airing dubbed films and series, as well as adult programming on overnights, although the CNBC Europe daytime simulcasts and GIGA programming stood in the interim; it would be complimented by kids’ and lifestyle programming by the following year.

Still, Das Vierte, plagued by problems on its licensing (they had another signal which dropped the NBC simulcasts with direct repeats of prime time programming, designed for digital cable) and restricted on the quantity of films and series programming it wanted to air, would become as unsuccessful as NBC Europe. NBC Universal was forced to sell the channel to Russian media mogul Dmitry Lesnevsky (founder of Ren TV), who wanted to transform it to a general entertainment service; the economic crisis of 2009 led to these plans being aborted, although the channel got a new look from French agency View that same year. These changes weren’t enough to save the channel.

Lesnevsky sold Das Vierte to Disney in 2012, and took rapid steps to end the history of NBC Europe/Das Vierte, given its unsuccessful run. Disney closed Das Vierte on New Year’s Day 2014, and used its space to relaunch the local Disney Channel as a free TV service, which became more successful than its direct predecessors.


What a fantastic history, Medianext! Thank you for sharing it with us.

Here’s a 1987 clip from CityTV in Toronto featuring a tour of their new facilities and a look at the history of the building that housed them. I’ve set the clip to start at the part where they introduce the new newsroom:


Here’s the very first midday edition of the BBC’s dedicated London news after the operation was split from the rest of the South-East in 2001. (I don’t know why the announcer still mentions the South-East at the beginning. A force of habit perhaps, or a reflection that the new region still covered areas outside of London itself?) Also note the “BBC LDN” styling, which was supposed to unite the BBC’s television, radio, and online operations under a fresh new brand, but the experiment didn’t last long (and was always limited just to visual elements):


And right on cue, a TV presentation fan tweeted an off-air map of that 2001 split:


Lots of BBC watermarks

Following up with the ATC post, here’s an ID from its botched relaunch as ATeCE (the phonetic spelling of ATC in Spanish) in February 1996.

This appealing and fresh look costed thousands of dollars (US$3500, according to the channel’s controller) and did not contribute to take the station out of the ratings basement.

The identity was abandoned in July that same year and ATC returned to its coloured logo. Here’s how addressed its viewers about the change.

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The 1990 CBC budget cuts, in which many CBC stations had either their local news (example: Windsor, which is across the river from Detroit, and Calgary, the then 2nd largest city in Canada) axed or any local programing (example: Ottawa) axed:

Credit: Mike Wise
The CBC centralized news to the provinces capital, an example Saskatoon, the largest in Saskatchewan having its local bulletin axed and moved to province wide bulletin from Regina. Toronto also suffered cuts, the cities French station being shutdown.


A portion of Tyne Tees’ nightly news program North East Tonight from March 1999, presented by Mike Neville. Includes a weather summary with Bob Johnson and a segment of a local magazine program called Primetime, hosted by Pam Royle.

This show lasted just 4 weeks on the air and it looks like it was inspired by TT’s corporate sibling Yorkshire’s early evening program Tonight, which followed a similar format. By the way, this is a recording with the clean video footage used on Primetime’s opener and the full intro theme (which it’s very catchy :heart_eyes:).


The allocation of digital terrestrial television licenses is the lead story of this 1997 BBC newscast; at the time, the expectation was that most of the new channels would be pay-TV, but the resulting subscription package, ONDigital, eventually failed:


A comparison of two different styles of news reporting in European channels: the very serious Dnevnik from HRT1 in Croatia and the populist Studio Aperto from Mediaset-owned Italia Uno.


Here are some British news reports from 1987 on the launch of the original Super Channel:


Since we’ve talked about the UK’s 1991 ITV franchise round upthread, I’d like to share a book that I’m reading about the license auction if anyone is interested in learning more; widely available used, it’s an exciting read about what may seem like an esoteric subject:


And now that we’ve seen the launch of Super Channel, here’s a Channel 4 News report about the 1989 launch of the Sky Television package, including Sky News. Sky had existed for several years, but as a single, pan-European channel called Sky Channel, whose concept was similar to Super and it didn’t make major media waves. In 1989, its owner, one Rupert Murdoch, transformed it into a UK-focused pay-TV package with multiple channels:


Most of an edition of Jornal da Record from Saturday 5 October 2002 (Brazilian first-round presidential election eve), presented by the opinionative journalist Boris Casoy. Includes campaign reports, a sports segment, the weather forecast and closer.

A sign-off sequence from Franco-Monégasque channel Tele Monte Carlo (TMC) in 1993. They introduced this dull look that year: it lasted until the end of the decade.


What a contrast to their wild, almost psychedelic sequence from the 1970s:

TMC’s separate Italian service was owned by Brazil’s Rede Globo for a few years, which was obvious from the channel’s on-air identity:

The Italian TMC eventually became today’s La 7.


A 2004 clip of Sky News Ireland, a relatively short-lived opt-out that was broadcast twice a day for Sky News viewers in Ireland: