The British are coming! BBC World Channel, a 24-hour, United Kingdom-based news and information channel, will begin airing programs on United States cable-TV systems next year.
The British cable entry is a joint venture between the British Broadcasting Company and the New York-based International News Network.
``We are not ... seeking to compete with the American networks and CNN within America,'' says Hugh Williams, director of programs for BBC Worldwide Television. ``That would be naive and arrogant.''
The chairman of the partnership is Reese Schonfeld, the man who designed and founded CNN. Schonfeld's partners are Russ and Les Hilliard, operators of the Cable USA system in Nebraska, Montana, and Texas.
``For a long time I told them I'd be glad to help them, but I wouldn't participate because I didn't think they had a chance,'' says Mr. Schonfeld, president of cable's TV Food Network.
But Schonfeld says he changed his mind 18 months ago when the federal Cable Act cleared the way for the BBC on US cable.
BBC World, an advertiser-supported service, will be available Feb. 1, and will cost operators about 5 cents per subscriber, Schonfeld says. In return, BBC World is promising first-year advertisers a 0.3 rating - less than 200,000 households, or about half of CNN's typical average.
The channel will ``customize'' an hour of US-tailored news programming during prime time in the Eastern time zone, Schonfeld says.