Digital divorce: NBC, Microsoft split; news site rebrands

Rappler.com
The 16-year online marriage between media giants NBC and Microsoft ended on Sunday, July 15 (Monday, July 16 in Manila), marked by the rebranding of MSNBC.com, one of the world's top news sites, as NBCNews.com

Screenshot of the homepage of NBCNews.com on July 16, 2012, hours after it was rebranded as a result of the ending of the 16-year joint venture between NBC and Microsoft. The old name MSNBC.com reflected the partnership.

MANILA, Philippines – The 16-year online marriage between media giants NBC and Microsoft ended on Sunday, July 15 (Monday, July 16 in Manila), marked by the rebranding of MSNBC.com, one of the world’s top news sites, as NBCNews.com.

NBC News acquired “full control” of MSNBC.com and its digital network from tech giant Microsoft, and immediately rebranded the site on Sunday, marking the end of the 50-50 joint venture.

The digital divorce ends one of the Internet’s pioneering joint ventures, formed back in 1996. Microsoft provided state-of-the-art technologies, while NBC provided the content and the partner cable channel.

Details of the new arrangement are still being discussed, and no financial terms were disclosed. However, New York Times reported Microsoft could walk away with roughly $300 million.

The site is one of the world’s most visited; in June alone, nearly 50 million unique visitors clicked through its pages – and that figure is from the United States alone.

The most visible change will be the renaming of the current site to NBCNews.com, with the old web address redirecting to the new one.

“Today we’re taking on a new name — NBCNews.com. While our name is changing, our commitment is not. In fact, in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be bringing you more of what you love today, and NBCNews.com will stay true to its mandate of delivering the news you need with the innovative spirit you’ve come to expect across all of our digital platforms,” Jennifer Sizemore, NBCNews.com Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement posted on the website.

2-year transition

The transition period will continue for at least two years, said NBC, due to “deep ties” between the two.

“It’ll have a new name and a new URL, but everything else will be the same,” said Charlie Tillinghast, the website’s publisher and president.

When the separation becomes complete, the old MSNBC.com address will be the home of a new website dedicated to content from the MSNBC cable network. This will finally separate the news components of the site (NBC) with the opinion-driven content brought by the TV channel (MSNBC).

The old arrangement caused some sort of brand confusion: while NBC News aims for the down-the-middle approach to news, MSNBC is driven by opinion and is considered to be leaning towards liberal views. The combined content on MSNBC.com muddled the distinction between the two.

The news teams from both online and broadcast will also be merged, the company said.

The company said the new arrangement will play to their strengths, and will align their broadcast, cable and online properties: NBC News with NBCNews.com; MSNBC cable channel with MSNBC.com; and their TODAY show brand with TODAY.com.

“It’s undeniable how big a part of all of our businesses the digital properties are going to be,” Steve Capus, NBC News president, told the New York Times in an interview. “We think we have a much better opportunity to shape them, and frankly grow the news division over all, if we have direct control over all of it,” he added.

The separation will also allow Microsoft more leeway, with MSN.com general manager Bob Visse saying it will “allow us to go out and innovate.”

Before, NBC News was the exclusive news provider for MSN.com. The separation will now allow the tech giant to form other partnerships with other news organizations. MSN.com is also planning to form its own news operations.

“We’re talking about using technology and using data to solve information delivery and news delivery in new and innovative ways… It’s really difficult for us to do that when we have an exclusive, single-source relationship with one news provider,” Visse said. – Rappler.com