Microsoft and NBC to part ways after 16 years

Mon 16th of July 2012, filed under Internet News

Taking the MS out of MSNBC

Microsoft has ended its 16 year partnership with media giant NBC by pulling out of joint venture MSNBC.com.

NBC's parent company Comcast Corp is now buying back Microsoft's 50 per cent stake in the website for an undisclosed amount; the New York Times reports it is around $300 million (£193m). MSNBC.com now automatically redirects to the new NBCNews.com website. A statement on the website from editor-in-chief Jennifer Sizemore said: "Today we're taking on a new name -- NBCNews.com. While our name is changing, our commitment is not. [...] while you'll notice some changes to our logos and navigation, nothing's going away."

Microsoft joined forces with US cable TV behemoth NBC in 1996, to create a 24 hour news channel that would be backed up by online content - a unique concept back then. However, Microsoft sold most of its stake in the TV channel in 2005, remaining a partner in the website alone, which caused problems for both companies.

What next for Microsoft and NBC?

The end of the partnership will have benefits for both Microsoft and NBC:

  • NBC will have full control of MSNBC.com, and will be rebranding it as the online home of the cable channel in 2013.
  • NBC will now control advertising on both the TV channel and website, and can meet the established demand for cross-platform advertising.
  • Microsoft can focus on developing its own news service. Bob Visse, general manager of MSN.com, told the New York Times: "we're going to go out and build a world-class news team." He hinted at a new venture launching later this year, involving a team of 100 journalists.
  • Microsoft's news services can now use multiple sources - up until now they were limited to MSNBC news stories, which are widely regarded as having a liberal bias.
  • However, MSN will continue to use NBC's content (among others) for two years - allowing the site to retain a major source of traffic.
  • NBC will remain the employer of MSNBC.com staff, who may relocate from Seattle to New York to work under chief digital officer Vivian Schiller.

Richard Frost, managing editor at theEword, said: "It seems both NBC and Microsoft felt going it alone was more beneficial than working together. The split paves the way for NBC to improve its advertising revenues, and for Microsoft to build its own news service, perhaps developing its own political voice in the process."

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