The end of the 16-year co-venture was announced tonight as both companies wont independent control over their Internet destinies. The deal has been teased since May, and it’s the last remaining stake which Microsoft had with NBC News after Microsoft sold its stake in MSNBC’s cable TV channel to NBC. But the website MSNBC.com remained a joint venture with a separate identity from the liberal network. The New York Times said Microsoft’s 50% stake sold for $300M. MSNBC.com is rebranding NBCNews.com and readers are being redirected as quickly as tonight. NBCNews.com will remain on MSN’s portal for the next two years but no longer exclusively as MSNBC.com was. (MSNBC.com received 40+M unique visitors monthly from the arrangement.)
Both parties call this an amicable divorce even though both bickered a lot in the past and both intend to compete fiercely against the other very soon. The AP reports the world’s largest software maker wants to launch its own online news service this fall. NBCNews.com in turn can make other partnerships and have its own website and rebrand a new identity. The NYT said NBC executives will bring the television and NBCNews.com staffs closer, improve the digital distribution of their TV programs, and make more apps and websites optimized for mobile devices.
Discussions had been going on for months about how to integrate staffs at NBC News in New York with the website staff on Microsoft’s corporate campus in Redmond, Wash. Now NBCNews.com will mostly be based in NYC. AP says the software maker initially invested $220M in the MSNBC joint venture. And, as a whole, Microsoft’s online operations which include the Bing search engine and MSN portal have lost more than $10B in the past seven years. According to comScore, MSNBC.com and its affiliated sites ranked as the Internet’s 4th most popular site for general news in the U.S., with nearly 50M visitors in June, up 5% from last year. But that’s behind #1 Yahoo, #2 AOL/HuffPo, and #3 CNN.