For 10 years, the BBC has largely had to itself the American market for television news that is not United States-centric, thanks to its distribution deal with public television and its cable network BBC America. That changed on Monday with the start of "Worldfocus," a half-hour nightly newscast being produced and distributed by the New York public broadcaster WLIW, Channel 21.
The new competition, available in about 85 percent of the country, brings an extensive juggling of the station lineup for "BBC World News" on public television nationwide. In the New York metropolitan area, the half-hour BBC newscast will no longer be seen on WLIW and its sister station, WNET, Channel 13, where it occupied plum evening spots; the program garnered on average some 60,000 viewers per night on WLIW alone. Instead, viewers will find it on the less-viewed New Jersey Network, at 6:30 p.m., Eastern time.
But even with the main New York stations going their own way, BBC executives said they were confident that their news operations in the United States would emerge stronger. New York aside, a new distribution deal with public television has yielded a much better lineup of stations across the country, said Garth Ancier, president of BBC Worldwide America. "We've gone from B stations to A stations" in markets including Chicago and Pittsburgh, he said in an interview, and better time periods in Boston and San Francisco.