NBC is now the sole owner of msnbc.com, after completing a deal to buy Microsoft’s shares in the news website on Sunday. Comcast, the company that controls NBC, apparently paid the technology giant $300 million for its 50% stake in msnbc.com, though the exact figure remains unconfirmed. Msnbc.com has swiftly been rebranded as NBCNews.com and users are now redirected to the new site and greeted with a welcome note from Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Sizemore. Rumours that the two companies were planning to part ways surfaced in March of this year, when Adweek reported that NBC was in “in serious negotiations with Microsoft to buy back MSNBC.com”.
Microsoft and NBC joined forces back in 1996, when the internet first began to emerge as an important news provider. Together the companies developed the cable news network MSNBC and the web site msnbc.com. Although they shared a name, production teams for the website and TV channel always remained separate, and over time the two began to follow divergent editorial paths. In 2005, NBC and Microsoft dissolved their joint ownership of MSNBC, and the channel consequently made quite a marked shift to the left. The move complicated the network’s relationship with the website of the same name. Whilst the TV channel was widely seen as a liberal response to the conservative Fox News, msnbc.com continued to be run in partnership with Microsoft and remained an impartial news source. The ensuing brand confusion is one of the primary reasons cited for the split, with Charles Tillinghast, president of msnbc.com reportedly saying that “naming [the website and the television network] the same thing is brand insanity.”
That said, both companies look set to gain more from the split than just clearer digital identities. In an interview with the New York Times, the president of NBC News Steve Capus expressed his hope that complete control over the website would allow the company to take full advantage of the digital opportunities that will be central to the business’s future. Meanwhile over at Microsoft the end of the partnership will allow the technology company’s news portal MSN to make deals with news providers other than NBC, thereby multiplying the news sources and perspectives offered to users. A little more surprisingly, Microsoft has also revealed that it plans to create its own news site later this year. Following in the footsteps of other internet portals like AOL and Yahoo, Microsoft will develop its own news service to rival NBCNews.com in the autumn, with a staff of around 100 people, the Guardian reports.
For now NBCNews.com will continue in the same vein as the previous website, and will even continue to show MSNBC content in the following months. The address msnbc.com will be reborn in early 2013, when it will become an online representative of the MSNBC cable channel.