NBC Europe

NBC Europe (formerly Super Channel, and later NBC Super Channel) was a satellite television network based in the United Kingdom that broadcast across Europe, and it was picked up by various European cable systems where available.

NBC Europe
Broadcast areaUnited Kingdom
Picture format576i (4:3 SDTV)
Sister channelsCNBC Europe
Launched30 January 1987; 34 years ago (1987-01-30)
Closed30 June 1998; 23 years ago (1998-06-30) (Europe)
29 September 2005; 15 years ago (2005-09-29) (Germany)
Replaced byGIGA (Germany)
Das Vierte (also in Germany)
National Geographic Channel (Europe)
Former namesMusic Box (1984-1987)
Super Channel (1987-1993)
NBC Super Channel (1993-1996)

The network was based in the heart of London, 19-22 Rathbone Place in the same building as Music Box, would later become the home of CNN International until 2007. For a number of months, the transmission facilities were provided by Molinare at Fouberts Place, and returned briefly until the Marcucci family acquired Melrose House, 14 Lanark Square in Limeharbour where it set up a state of the art transmission facility.


1987–1993: Super Channel

Super Channel logo (1987-1993)

Launched on 30 January 1987, replacing the 24-hour music channel Music Box, it was co-owned by all but one of the ITV companies at the time in the United Kingdom.[1] Virgin Group had a majority stake in Music Box (60%) and would own 15% of the equity with the rest being split between ITV franchise holders include Granada, Yorkshire, LWT, Central, Anglia, Tyne Tees, Ulster, Grampian, Scottish and Border, as Thames Television was the only one of the ITV contractors not to participate.[2] It competed with Sky Channel (forerunner of Sky One), which was the only other major pan-European satellite television network around at the time. Unlike Sky Channel, syndicated output was less American and more European, but many of the programmes were what it called the "Best of British" sourced from ITV or the BBC, while ITN-produced news bulletins. It also broadcast syndicated non-British European programmes such as the Dutch sitcom Zeg 'ns Aaa (with English subtitles).

Super Channel fared poorly, due to United Kingdom-based programming seen as unsuitable for European audiences, such as drama being seen as "too violent" or "too realistic",[3] as well as a dispute with the British actors' union who demanded additional fees for viewing by European audiences which meant that it could no longer offer the 'Best of British to a European audience'.[2]

Within a year, the ITV companies sold the network to the Italian Marcucci family, owners of Videomusic was the first music channel in Italy, with a minority stake being held by Richard Branson's Virgin plc and the programming changed from British to pan-European, although it continued carrying ITN World News bulletins.

1993–1998: NBC steps in

NBC Super Channel logo (1993-1996)

On 2 October 1993, the station which was in severe financial difficulties was taken over by the American company General Electric, then-parent of the NBC television network, and became NBC Super Channel.[4] From 9 September 1996, the channel was renamed NBC Europe, but was from then on almost always referred to as simply "NBC" on the air, although the network (along with its sister station CNBC Europe launched on 11 March earlier that year) was transmitted from the GE building in Hammersmith. The transmission suite used cutting edge Pro-Bel COMPASS and MAPP automation at the time, and Profile video servers for all commercials and promotions, within programmes continued to be played from tape automatically.

Most of NBC Europe's prime time programming was produced in Europe, but after 10.00pm (CET) on weekday evenings, the channel aired The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Later, hence its slogan "Where the Stars Come Out at Night". Most NBC News programmes were broadcast on NBC Europe, including Dateline NBC, Time and Again and NBC Nightly News, which was aired live. The Today Show was also initially shown live in the afternoons, but was later broadcast the following morning instead, by which time it was more than half a day old. That meant that all news portions had to be replaced with European updates produced by ITN in London, also supplied the network with the main European newscasts before and after the GE takeover. The European weather was produced by the BBC at first, but was later taken over by NBC in the United States occasionally.

NBC Europe carried virtually no prime time fiction entertainment programmes shown on NBC in the United States, because they were usually owned and distributed by other studios under the fin-syn rules (which did not apply in Europe). NBC would have had to buy the rights for each country in order to show them on NBC Europe, which would have been too expensive. Even for shows that NBC Studios owned itself, it was generally more financially viable to sell the rights country by country either to broadcast or cable and satellite channels than to air them on NBC Europe. The most notable exceptions to this rule were brief runs of Profiler and The Pretender, as well as short-lived American sitcoms Union Square and Mr. Rhodes. That is widely considered to be one of the main reasons why NBC Europe was ultimately not a success.

1998–2005: As a German network

Studio of news programme "GIGA Real"

NBC Europe stopped broadcasting to most of Europe on 30 June 1998, when the Deutsche Fernsehnachrichten Agentur took it over and moved to Düsseldorf, most of the satellite feeds became either National Geographic Channel or CNBC. NBC Europe continued to operate on the German cable television, fed by one digital satellite link from Eutelsat II-F1 (later Hotbird 5). On 30 November of that year, the first German programming started airing whether assembled with content from GIGA and CNBC Europe, as well as other shows. In 2004, NBCUniversal took over the DFA and consequently NBC Europe.

On 29 September 2005, NBC Europe was split into GIGA and later replaced by the new channel Das Vierte. In fact, the service still broadcasting with its licence on cable, satellite, IPTV and digital cable. It broadcasts a special version on cable television including CNBC Europe and also GIGA (up until 31 March 2006), this is necessary to keep both the licence and the cable channel.

In 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Das Vierte and closed the channel on 31 December 2013. On 17 January 2014, the service was replaced by Disney Channel Germany switching from pay television to free-to-air.


Due to limitations on the amount of entertainment programming on the network, NBC Europe (including GIGA) aired a number of original programming in tandem with American programming that had not been aired in Europe beforehand. These programmes include:

See also


  1. "Broadband TV News - UK - Archive December 9, 2005". 26 October 2007.
  2. Transnational Television in Europe: Reconfiguring Global Communications Networks, Jean K. Chalaby, I.B.Tauris, page 25
  3. Media Information Australia, Australian Film and Television School, 1990, age 80-, 83, 1990, Issues 55-58
  4. Reuters. "COMPANY NEWS; NBC to Control Super Channel".