`World Monitor' to be on cable channel
A new and different 30-minute nightly news program will be airing on cable this fall. ``World Monitor: a Television Presentation of The Christian Science Monitor'' will appear on The Discovery Channel (TDC) - a system noted for high-quality documentaries and a growing viewership - it was announced yesterday.
The national program is scheduled to premi`ere Sept. 12 - anchored from its Boston studio by former NBC News correspondent John Hart - at 7 p.m. Eastern time. It will be ``fed'' again across the nation at 1 a.m. ET, in a version that will be updated when necessary. This timing will allow viewers on the West Coast, for instance, to see the program at either 4 p.m. or 10 p.m.
Trends in the broadcast industry favored the choice of cable vs. other broadcast media, according to John H. Hoagland Jr., manager of The Christian Science Publishing Society. He cited the rapid growth of cable and the decline of network TV.
``We examined carefully all of the major cable broadcasting systems in terms of compatibility,'' Mr. Hoagland says, ``and actually talked with about a half dozen. But it became clear over extended discussions during April, May, and June that Discovery has some strong advantages - like the quality of management.''
Ownership was also a consideration in the choice of Discovery, says Annetta D. Robertson, general manager of broadcast publishing for The Christian Science Publishing Society.
``World Monitor'' will be Discovery's only regular newscast. ``Several cable services were owned by other network broadcasting companies, publishers, and other cable distributors,'' she says. ``That began to raise some questions.'' The Monitor's concern was that the program might be dropped if it became competitive with another news show offered by the same system or network.
Launched in June 1985, Discovery now offers 18 hours of documentaries each day - from science to travel - by producers around the world. The system is viewed by many broadcast analysts as an attractive and promising one. The New York advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi DFS Compton, for instance, issued a recent cable report calling TDC ``cable's newest success story'' and describing it as ``an upscale, quality network that seems to be building a secure future.''
The nightly show ``may not use the word `news' explicitly in our programming,'' Hoagland says. ``Obviously we'll cover the news. But in television, the word conveys something very hard edged that really doesn't cover everything we're trying to do. And that is putting people in touch with people every night - a global view of underlying issues and trends. We want to convey that very early in our programming.''
Each night, live satellite hookups will be featured from Washington, London, and Tokyo. The program will offer 22 minutes of programming and six minutes of commercials. ``The structure will be flexible,'' Ms. Robertson says, ``with several distinct segments to accommodate the needs of the day. A two- to three-minute headline-news segment will probably come toward the end of the program. Two or three news topics of the day will lead the program, followed by a discussion segment with all the bureaus.''
Currently some 32.1 million homes subscribe to cable systems carrying Discovery. About 289,000 homes see Discovery's average prime-time show. The daily average number of households per show on an all-day basis is about 160,000.
The new program's viewership ``is something we'll have to earn,'' says Hoagland, ``but we expect to start off reaching many hundreds of thousands of homes nightly in the first few months, and several million homes about three years from now.''
Any concern that ``World Monitor'' will be available only to those who can pay for cable service?
``Discovery is a basic service on cable systems for the most part,'' Hoagland says. ``It's not pay cable, as with HBO or some other channels. It's true people need to pay for the basic service. But cable penetration has been increasing rapidly. It's now at 52 percent of all American households and is well on its way to well over 60 percent in the next few years.''