Microsoft and NBC News have parted company. NBC News is now the sole owner and operator of the MSNBC Digital Network, which includes msnbc.com, Today.com, NightlyNews.com, BreakingNews.com, Newsvine.com and EveryBlock.com.
NBCUniversal acquired Microsoft's 50 percent share in the joint venture, which was formed in 1996. NBC has formed a new division called NBC News Digital to house the joint properties as well as its other online assets, including NBCLatino.com, NBCPolitics.com and EducationNation.com.
That means the current MSNBC.com site is now NBCNews.com. Along with the renaming, NBCNews.com will also provide access to a new, expanded and higher-quality local news experience by partnering with NBC's Owned Television Stations, and MSNBC TV will launch a new digital home in 2013.
A Positioning 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," said Steve Capus, president of NBC News. He thanked Microsoft for helping NBC build these properties over the past 16 years.
NBC News plans to keep a significant 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. NBC said MSN will remain an important distribution partner for NBCNews.com, featuring NBC News links to content on the MSN homepage and other properties.
"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 Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and chief digital officer of NBC News.
"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."
Is Content King?
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said Microsoft and NBC came together at a time when Redmond was convinced the future was going to be in content. The phrase "content is king" was common.
"Going back to the AOL years, Microsoft had a deep belief that it needed to be in content. So they bought Slate and they got into MSNBC and they discovered that content wasn't their thing," Enderle told us. "Slate was the first to go and then it was a matter of untangling this MSNBC deal."
As Enderle sees it, the Microsoft-NBC partnership was always somewhat ugly. Microsoft never had much to offer on the content side and NBC didn't have many issues with its Web site, which was Microsoft's strength in the partnership.
"With MSNBC you had this disjointed entity that was kind of positioned against Fox," Enderle said. "But MSNBC couldn't execute at Fox's level. So NBC will take over and try to position more strongly against Fox."