Peter Kafka

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Microsoft and NBC Call It Quits, for Real: Here’s the MSNBC.com Divorce Filing

The MSNBC.com divorce hasn’t gotten quite as much ink as Tom and Katie, but it’s certainly been well-covered.

Now both sides are making it official. Official statements below, but here are the relevant details:

*Microsoft and NBC created MSNBC as a joint venture all the way back in 1996, in an era when NBC was owned by GE, and Microsoft was the world’s most powerful technology company. NBC took back control of the TV network in 2005. Now Comcast’s NBC also gets the Web site, which it will rebrand as NBCNews.com.
*No financials disclosed. (Update: Microsoft gets $300 million for its 50 percent stake, says the NYT’s Brian Stelter.)
*NBC gets full control of MSNBC, but also gets a commitment from Microsoft to keep featuring the site’s content via MSN, which will be crucial to sustaining its traffic.
*Microsoft, meanwhile, will no longer be bound by an exclusivity agreement with NBC, so it can play around with other news sources (assuming it is interested in playing around with other news sources).
*The MSNBC.com team stays in Seattle for now, but most of the operation will eventually move to NBC’s New York base. Within NBC’s org chart, MSNBC.com gets folded into a new tent called “NBC News Digital,” to be overseen by newish hire Vivian Schiller.

Here’s NBC’s statement:

NBC NEWS ACQUIRES FULL OWNERSHIP OF MSNBC DIGITAL NETWORK

Leading Television News Organization Takes Control of its Digital Businesses to Become An Integrated Multi-Platform News Provider

Current msnbc.com Site Becomes NBCNews.com; MSNBC TV Gets New Home on the Web in 2013

NEW YORK, NY—July 16, 2012—NBC News President Steve Capus announced today that NBC News is now the full owner and operator of Msnbc Digital Network, which includes msnbc.com,TODAY.com, NightlyNews.com, BreakingNews.com, Newsvine.com, EveryBlock.com, and the existing apps and digital extensions of these respective properties. On July 13, 2012, NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, acquired from Microsoft its 50 percent share of the joint venture that was formed in 1996. All of NBC News’ digital businesses, including the Msnbc Digital Network properties, theGrio.com, NBCLatino.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; and over 200 of its local affiliate stations across the country.

As part of the transition, the current msnbc.com site will become NBCNews.com, and the site will continue to provide users with the highest quality news and information from the network’s trusted on-air and online journalists, editors and producers. NBCNews.com will also provide access to a new, expanded and higher-quality local news experience by partnering with NBC’s Owned Television Stations—providing users a wide offering of local, regional, national and international news.

MSNBC TV will launch a new digital home in 2013. The digital presence will be an extension of the MSNBC TV on-air brand, creating in-depth content and a community for the passionate audiences of MSNBC programs. Until then, MSNBC TV’s digital content will continue to be available on its current platforms.

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 in order to create unified multi-platform teams and promote the sharing of resources and cross-platform reporting between the network’s broadcast and digital properties. 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.

As the teams begin to combine, NBC News will continue to invest in the growth of its digital businesses, focusing on a model of user engagement through social networks, and creating more premium content with an emphasis on video.

“When msnbc.com launched over 15 years ago, it set the standard for how people consume news online—creating trends and leading the marketplace. 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 Capus. “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.”

In the coming years, MSN will remain an important distribution partner for NBCNews.com, featuring NBC News links to content on the MSN homepage and other properties.

“After years of working together with NBC to successfully build msnbc.com into a leading online news outlet, we are excited to explore future innovations, relationships and opportunities that will continue to provide the most relevant news and conversations at MSN,” said Bob Visse, general manager of MSN. “We are looking forward to seeing how the msnbc news team thrives under NBC, and we will continue to feature the great stories from NBC News as well as expand our news offerings to best serve the evolving interests of our broad global audience.”

NBC News Digital will be overseen by Vivian Schiller, SVP & Chief Digital Officer of NBC News. Charlie Tillinghast will continue to oversee the legacy Msnbc Digital Network properties reporting to Schiller. The current NBC News Digital 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. “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.”

And here’s Microsoft’s, posted to its MSN blog.

Microsoft and NBC Discontinue Joint News Venture Msnbc
MSN and Bing to Deliver Innovative Real-Time News

Today we are announcing the divestiture of Microsoft’s 50 percent share in Msnbc.com to our partner in that joint venture NBC. Since we formed Msnbc.com it has become a leader in the online news industry – and we couldn’t be more proud of the terrific team that delivers news every day to the millions of readers on MSN. As part of this transaction, Msnbc will be fully owned and operated by NBC.

The agreement we reached with NBC releases Microsoft from its exclusivity with NBC, which will allow us to not only continue featuring content from NBC on MSN as we do today, but also provide Microsoft new flexibility to deliver fresh and innovative news products across Bing and MSN.

The pace, frequency and ways people are consuming news has changed dramatically over the past few years. People expect to see multiple perspectives and sources when they consume news, and they expect to receive news in real time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These changes couple with the explosion of social sharing presents a tremendous opportunity to add value to an increasingly noisy media landscape.

With today’s announcement, we will be able to provide a broader perspective on what’s happening in the world by offering more original and third-party content for the new Bing News app for Windows 8, a cornerstone application and entry point for search on our latest operating system.

In the fall, we will be delivering a new MSN news experience. It will be singularly focused on online consumers, harnessing real-time signals produced by social networks using the power of search to deliver breaking updates based on relevant topics. MSN will utilize advanced technologies to mine real-time information from the web to keep users constantly up to date and in the know on the latest breaking news and trends across the Internet. The result for MSN users will be more news sources, more perspectives, and more real-time time news. MSN will focus on creating a world-class news experience targeted to today’s online news consumers.

With MSN’s massive reach of more than 520 monthly unique visitors, and Bing’s product roadmap, we are as excited about what the future as we ever have been.

Bob Visse, General Manager, Microsoft Online Services Division


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald