One of the Web’s longest-held partnership has ended.
Sunday evening, NBCUniversal announced that Microsoft had sold off its 50 percent share of MSNBC.com to NBC’s parent company, Comcast. The news website, which has operated for the past 16 years, will now be known as NBCNews.com. The television channel MSNBC will remain unchanged, and will relaunch online as an MSNBC TV-branded website, though the exact URL has not yet been announced.
MSNBC.com will remain online for now, but NBC is actively trying to push readers over to the new website as the transition takes place. Microsoft has also agreed to continue featuring NBC content on MSN.com, to help keep traffic numbers up.
The move comes as NBC seeks to rework its cross-branding efforts between TV and the Web. Charlie Tillinghast, president and publisher of MSNBC.com and now NBCNews.com, tells an NBC reporter that NBC will soon enjoy a “proper brand alignment between the TV properties and their Web counterparts — NBC News and NBCNews.com, MSNBC cable and msnbc.com and TODAY show and TODAY.com.”
Tillinghast added that the new website will “have a new name and a new URL, but everything else will be the same.”
Microsoft and NBC first launched MSNBC back in 1996, which included both the cable news network and the website. Microsoft sold most of its share in the cable channel back in 2005, giving NBCUniversal control of 82 percent of the channel. Microsoft retains its 18 percent share in the television channel, for now at least.
While NBC says the details of the deal have not yet been sorted out, sources who spoke with The New York Times, Microsoft will receive approximately $300 million for its share of MSNBC.com. Further, Microsoft will no longer be under an exclusivity agreement with NBC for news distribution, meaning it can pursue its own avenues if it so wishes.
“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,” wrote Bob Visse, General Manager of Microsoft Online Services Division, on the MSN blog.
So, that’s the end of MSNBC.com. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft does from here. Perhaps it will scrap the news business altogether — but for some reason, we doubt it.