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Reuters unveils TV app for news junkies

Reuters launched its new TV product - a $1.99-a-month smart video app aimed at young professionals hooked on news - at a glitzy party at its New York headquarters on Monday.

The aim of Reuters TV is to generate a relevant viewing experience for each individual subscriber. An algorithm pulls from a well of videos produced specifically for the service, assembling them into a coherent news show that considers viewers’ location, usage data and available time as well as the editorial value of each story.

“It’s a reinvention of some of the fundamental aspects of TV news,” said Isaac Showman, managing director of Reuters TV. “We’re moving away from mass broadcasts to one that’s relevant for every single user.”

Every segment comes in short, medium and long variations, so a subscriber who cues up a longer broadcast will see more in-depth videos than someone who asks for a shorter one. Options range from five to 30 minutes. Past usage and location will determine what’s shown so that a viewer in London is likely to receive a longer report on the British prime minister than a New York subscriber, for example.

Reuters will use its hundreds of video crews around the world who already produce around 100,000 video stories annually as well as new production facilities in New York, London and Hong Kong to create reports for Reuters TV, which will range from politics and finance to sports and pop culture.

“Our business, fundamentally, is about leveraging our extraordinary scale,” said Showman.

Reuters is targeting 30- to 40-year-old “realists” who “need to be in the know,” according to the company’s marketing materials.

The product is designed to have a dual-revenue stream when it launches in the US and UK in January, with a $1.99 monthly subscription, supplemented by limited advertising. New users will get a 30-day free trial.

“We think a lot about making a news business that is sustainable, and one of the things you will find in the news business is that having two sources of revenue is something that really encourages stability,” Showman said, adding that the number of sponsors would be limited, the advertising loads would be light and that any adverts that appear on the service would need to provide a “beautiful, premium ad experience”.

It is scheduled to be released in January, initially only to subscribers on iPhones and iPadsEventually, Reuters TV will expand beyond Apple devices to other mobile gadgets and connected TV devices, he said.

“You’re going to get a really personal, one-on-one relationship with the journalists on the ground. But you won’t have to make a lot of choices.”

Given the abundance of free news video, it will be challenging for Reuters to build up a sizeable subscriber base, said Bernard Gershon, president of digital media consultancy GershonMedia.

“I would be stunned if they had more than 20,000 paying subscribers at the end of year one,” said Gershon. “There’s something to be said for creating more of a Netflix-like recommendation engine experience for high-quality news video, but I’m just not convinced that’s enough of a differentiator that it’s a high-quality news business… If this were a startup looking to raise money, they’d get laughed out of the room.”

Reuters TV introduced - launch party keynote speakers Stephen Adler, Isaac Showman, Dan Colarusso

Reuters TV promo ■