Just days after selling off its minority interest in A+E Networks, Comcast's NBC Universal has agreed to acquire full ownership in the web site MSNBC.com from its 50-50 partner Microsoft, bringing their 16-year partnership to a final close.
NBCU has agreed to buy the stake in the website, which includes MSNBC.com, Today.com, BreakingNews.com, Newsivne.com, EveryBlock.com and the existing apps and extensioins of those properties, for an estimated $300 million. The deal has been in the works for years -- the websites had been exploring a rebranding in 2010 -- and marks the end of a partnership that began with the launch of MSNBC in 1996. Microsoft exited the cable channel in 2005 but retained its 50% interest in the websites.
With Comcast taking control of the NBC Universal partnership last year, talks apparently restarted and began to heat up in May.
In conjunction with the deal, NBCU will combine its NBC News digital properties - theGrio.com, NBCLatino.com, NBCPolitics.com, EducationNation.com, social media and all of the network's digital initiatives, will combine to form a new division entitled, NBC News Digital. Under the NBC News umbrella, NBC News Digital joins the news network's television properties including Today, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, Dateline and Rock Center; its cable arm, MSNBC TV; its radio and mobile arms, NBC News Radio and NBC News Mobile; its educational arm, NBC Learn; its production arm, Peacock Productions; its NBCUniversal partners, CNBC, The Weather Channel and Telemundo; and over 200 of its local affiliate stations across the country.
NBCNews.com will also partner with NBC's Owned Television Stations to provide a wide offering of local, regional, national and international news.
According to NBCU, MSNBC TV will launch a new digital home in 2013. MSNBC Digital Network properties will be fully incorporated into NBC News' current operational structure, and some staff will be co-located at NBC's headquarters in New York. NBC News plans to keep a substantial presence in the Seattle area, building what will become the "NBC News Innovation Center." This center will focus on digital innovation and technology, and incubate new ideas for NBC News and NBCUniversal.
"When msnbc.com launched 16 years ago, it set the standard for how people consume news online-creating trends and leading the marketplace," said NBC News president Steve Capus in a statement. "Today, NBC News enters a new phase of its history better positioned to compete and grow in a digital environment, as well as deliver consumers and clients a multi-platform news experience unlike anything else in the industry. "We'd like to thank Microsoft for everything they've done for this partnership and for helping us build these properties into what they are today."
NBC News Digital will be overseen by Vivian Schiller. NBC News senior vice president & chief digital officer Charlie Tillinghast will continue to oversee the legacy MSNBC Digital Network properties, reporting to Schiller. The current NBC News Digital sales team will now report to Marianne Gambelli, president of NBC Network Ad Sales, and work closely with John Kelly, executive vice president of NBC News Ad Sales.
"This deal represents so many opportunities for NBC News, including the ability to better align television with digital, innovate around how we deliver content to consumers, and fully integrate digital into everything that we do," said Schiller said in a statement. "Through this new structure, we'll grow by engaging users with our content directly, and on every platform. This is a different model from the rest, and given where the future of online news is trending, we see it as a model with staying power."