Last week, Comcast’s NBCUniversal joint venture bought the 50% interest in website msnbc.com.co it didn’t
already own from Microsoft for an estimated $300 million, ending a 16-year partnership that began with
the 1996 launch of cable channel MSNBC. (Microsoft sold its interest in the cable channel in 2005.)
The msnbc.com site will become NBCNews.com, under the umbrella of a new organization, NBC
News Digital, encompassing all of the news division’s Web properties and headed by a longtime
industry veteran, NBC News senior vice president and chief digital officer Vivian Schiller. (The
msnbc.com site will relaunch in 2013.) Schiller, who has served stints as CEO of National Public
Radio, general manager of NYTimes.com and general manager of Discovery Times Channel, took time
out last week to answer email questions from Multichannel News senior finance editor Mike Farrell.
MCN: What are your plans for
NBC News Digital? What do
you envision it becoming?
Vivian Schiller: Our plan is to
build on the success of what was
MSNBC.com and grow it. By aligning
our brands and co-locating our
journalists, we’ll be able to deliver
more great original, Web-native
content from around the world.
We also want to become true
digital innovators, something
that no TV news organization has
really been able to do. Our NBC
News Innovation Center in Seattle
will yield great new products and
experiences for our audiences.
MCN: How is this going to be
different than what you already
offer and what your competition
off ers on the Web?
VS: NBC News now has more assets at its disposal
than anyone else in TV news: the highest-rated
broadcast programs, a cable network that increases
in viewership every year and now one of the most
indispensable set of web properties in the country.
Now that we can combine those assets under NBC
News leadership, we can do more, faster, better …
and in an increasingly innovative way.
MCN: You mention a strong local component
with the NBC owned-and-operated stations.
How is that going to work?
VS: Our viewers don’t necessarily differentiate
between national programs and local programs: for
them, it’s all NBC. So why make them work so hard
to find their favorite content online? By sharing
content with our owned stations — something we
could not do while we were in the joint venture
— we will give our users the full range of local,
regional, national and international news.
MCN: Msnbc.com held a prominent position on
the MSN.com site. Now that Microsoft has more
freedom to select other news
aggregators, how is that going to
VS: MSN will continue to carry
headlines and links from NBC News
for some time to come. At the same
time, we plan to aggressively grow
our “earned visits” though social
media and direct marketing, but it’s
nice to have that cushion.
MCN: How will this impact
advertising? There was talk
that the Microsoft arrangement
didn’t allow you to do crossmedia
deals. Is that fair game now?
Schiller: The fastest-growing part
of our digital revenue has been
cross-platform sales and online
video. Those are sweet spots for
NBC News, so we’re very bullish
MCN: The MSNBC.com name will return in
2013. What was the strategy behind changing it
to NBCNews.com in the first place? Do you risk
harming the brand by changing the name for a
year and then bringing it back?
Schiller: This is about brand alignment to match
the way our consumers know us. NBCNews.com
will be the home for NBC News’ world-class journalism,
the kind you see on Today, Nightly News,
Rock Center, Dateline and Meet the Press. Next year,
we’ll launch a brand new property that serves the
passionate audiences that come to MSNBC TV
— from Morning Joe to The Rachel Maddow Show.
It only makes sense for that site to carry the same
name as its TV counterpart.