NBC News, a division of Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA), has acquired total ownership of the company’s jointly owned MSNBC.com website from Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT). Microsoft and NBC, formerly owned by General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), started the website in 1996. Microsoft’s involvement with the MSNBC television network ended in 2005.
Microsoft will receive $300 million for its stake in the site and other jointly held digital properties, according to a report in the New York Times. That is not much by Microsoft’s standards, but represents a major investment by Comcast in its NBC News division.
The deal permits Microsoft to seek other deals for its MSN.com portal site, something that had been forbidden under the agreement with GE and Comcast. About half of MSNBC.com’s traffic originates from MSN.com, and NBC News is now free to seek other traffic sources as well.
The new NBCNews.com is simply a newly named version of the MSNBC.com website. However, a new MSNBC website more closely tied to the MSNBC cable network will be launched early next year. Then there will be an MSNBC.com and an NBCNews.com — as well as a lot of confusion among users.
There probably is no elegant way to make this change, but Comcast and its NBC News division have made a large bet that the change can be made without losing a lot of traffic. The company also hopes to beef up its mobile offerings, an area where advertising sales are expected to grow substantially.