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NBCU Expands Global Presence

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LONDON With international growth of paramount importance, NBC Universal on Wednesday unveiled ambitious plans to launch 20 additional local television channels in 23 countries across Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The aim is to more than double annual revenue from the company's global networks division within the next two to three years, according to NBC Universal international president Peter Smith.

Existing NBCU brands, including Sci Fi, 13th Street (for action and suspense movies and series) and the Universal Channel (crime and investigation), are being targeted to debut in markets across Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia and India. Channels also will be extended in the existing global networks' territories of Western Europe and Latin America.

NBCU now has 12 local versions of its entertainment channels in 35 countries.

The new plan calls for the number of local channels to more than double to 32, reaching 58 countries, beginning with the launch of Sci Fi in Latin America and Sci Fi and 13th Street in the Netherlands.

The initiative forms part of a strategy to sharply increase the reach of NBCU's filmed entertainment, network and cable television operations, which generated international revenue of nearly $3 billion last year.

It follows the recent pledge by NBCU president and CEO Jeff Zucker to make international growth one of his strategic priorities, alongside content creation and digital expansion.

Last month, NBCU unveiled its first major digital step since Zucker became chief executive in February as it joined forces with News Corp. to launch an online video distribution network.

The channel expansion follows a strategic review, led by Zucker and Smith, that identified ways to increase NBCU's international presence working across all of the company's divisions.

"We have set an ambitious growth plan for the company that will boost the international visibility of our television channels and other businesses, accelerating the global presence of NBCU as a whole," Smith said in a statement.

The global networks plan is expected to see channels launched across Europe, Asia and Latin America during 2007 and 2008, including such key new markets as Portugal, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Russia and India.

"We look to markets with growing digital subscriber bases, emerging pay television consumption, new platforms and new technologies," Smith said.