CNBC and Dow Jones are in discussions about their European joint venture and a decision about its future shape could be reached within weeks, according to executives familiar with the talks.
CNBC Europe was set up seven years ago following the success of the CNBC business cable TV channel in the US after its launch in 1989. The European venture has not yet reached profitability but is expected to break even in two or three years.
CNBC in the US is profitable, according to its parent company, NBC Universal, despite the loss of viewers following waning interest in financial markets after the collapse of the internet bubble.
CNBC would not comment on the status of its European operations, which are based in London. However, it is believed to be committed to being a global business news service. This reflects the wider strategy of NBC, part of GE. The media group is actively seeking growth opportunities outside the US as the American media market matures.
Dow Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, declined to comment on whether or not it was having talks with CNBC about the European joint venture.
The media group has, however, recently pulled back from some of its international operations in an effort to cut costs. For example, the European and Asian editions of the Wall Street Journal are being reduced to tabloid size. One executive said Dow Jones “might not have the appetite” to wait until CNBC Europe becomes profitable. The venture's total loss is estimated by analysts to be $20m-$30m per year.
Both in the US and Europe, CNBC sells itself to advertisers as a way of reaching a wealthy audience. The channel says many of its viewers are not captured by traditional ratings measurements of the home because CNBC is watched in the office, trading floor or gym.
Competition for viewers will increase in the US, however, if Rupert Murdoch's News Corp gets distribution agreements for a Fox business channel. Although Mr Murdoch has said the channel will be launched this year, it is now not expected until 2006. Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of Fox News, has indicated he would want the channel to have extensive distribution before it is launched.
In Europe, CNBC's ratings have reached their highest yet. A survey released in June by EMS, which analyses European ratings, said it was the fastest growing pan-European TV channel for daily and weekly viewing, with daily viewers up 37 per cent to 703,000.
CNBC has an editorial partnership with Dow Jones in the US. In Europe and Asia, the two companies have a 50:50 joint venture.