MSNBC stuck its toe in the water on a new distribution platform, landing a multiyear deal to deliver news live via satellite to passengers cruising the Mediterranean.
MSNBC was added in mid-June to the service from Wave Entertainment Network that includes sister network CNBC as well as Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and BBC World. CNN isn’t part of the package.
The news and information channels are among the TV options being delivered by Wave, a subsidiary of Seamobile Enterprises, to 500 staterooms on Oceania Cruises’ Insignia ship. Two other Oceania vessels are scheduled to be wired later this year.
For MSNBC, “It’s a really little deal initially, but it’s got really interesting potential,” said Jeff Gralnick, the special consultant to NBC News for Internet and new technology matters. He reports to Adam Jones, NBC News’ chief financial officer and chief business development officer.
Mr. Gralnick said the cruise population is predominantly American, well-off and college-educated, and between the ages of 40 and 60. Those characteristics are right in the sweet spot for news organizations and their advertisers.
Mr. Gralnick was unable to offer details on how much time passengers spend watching TV. After all, they are cruising the breathtaking Mediterranean on a ship that has several bars and restaurants, as well as spa services, lectures, cooking demonstrations, dance lessons and arts and crafts classes.
He did, however, offer anecdotal evidence of interest in at least political news from home.
“The way life on a cruise ship is, there are big downtime periods between the cocktail hour and the dinner hour. We had friends who were on this boat for eight days and that started in Ankara. They’re 60-year-old political junkies. They were watching three hours a day of what would be prime time,” he said.
Beyond any immediate interest in this historic political season, the fact is that the licensing deal means MSNBC is there, live, for passengers who want it.
It’s another new international foothold for MSNBC, which has expanded its brand to Germany, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Hong Kong in the last two years.
The cable news channel will become a source for news, political or otherwise, “in places where MSNBC has never been seen before, which serves to extend the brand of MSNBC, and serves to expand the brand of NBC News,” Mr. Gralnick said.
The expansion of the NBC News organization over the last 18 months or more is in keeping with the companywide pushes for globalization by NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker and his boss, General Electric Chairman Jeffrey Immelt.
Mr. Gralnick praised the “great new technology” by which the live TV signals are being delivered to the Insignia, which he said “is Cruise Ship No. 1. This is going to be extended to lots and lots of other high-end staterooms.”