RealTime IT News

NBC Launches Internet Company

Television network NBC Tuesday made its largest foray onto the Internet to date with the launch of NBC Internet Inc., a new publicly-held company encompassing Snap! and other Internet assets.

NBCi was formed in May by combining the Snap portal, which NBC owns along with CNET Inc. as well as online community site Xoom.com Inc. in which NBC holds a 49 percent stake.

The new publicly-held company NBC Internet Inc. (NBCI) began trading Tuesday on the Nasdaq National Market.

The core holding of NBCi will be the Snap! portal which combines search and e-commerce features as well as entertainment offerings for a variety of bandwidth options. Holders of Xoom.com common shares will receive one share of NBCi stock for each Xoom.com share they hold. NBC will own 47.3 percent of NBCI, former Xoom.com shareholders 38.8 percent and CNET (CNET) a 13.8 percent stake. CNET is no longer a joint operator of Snap.

NBC President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Wright, who will serve as chairman of NBCi, said the creation of the new unit is in recognition of traditional media outlets must become proficient at capitalizing on the Internet to remain successful.

"With today's launch of NBCi and the Snap site, NBC takes the next step beyond traditional media platforms into the Internet to become an electronic commerce company, enabling our valuable network television advertisers to directly reach consumers. This significant occasion also marks the first time in NBC history that investors have the opportunity to purchase stock in a company that bears the NBC name and logo as part of its identity," Wright said.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday morning, Wright said e-commerce opportunities will be the centerpiece of the NBCi strategy.

"Advertisers will be able to market goods directly to consumers on TV screens and online. The potential commercial opportunities on the Web are enormous. With the various Internet properties of NBCi and our partners, we're prepared to reap the benefits of this revolution," he said.

Wright said the goal would be turning Web surfers into active users and buyers by blending e-commerce and content.

Chris Kitze, co-founder of Xoom.com, will become chief executive officer of NBCi.

NBCi will add a variety of video and online programming in addition to the search and community features of Xoom and Snap. Sites for several NBC programs will also be upgraded to include more multimedia features, including increased options for broadband users. The high-speed edition will feature content from more than 25 partners.

"Broadband multimedia and entertainment is another area where NBCI wants to make its mark. We've made a big bet on broadband. We know our Internet users are also looking for services that walk and talk -- we saw this last year with streaming media and MP3," said Edmond Sanctis, NBCi's president and chief operating officer.

NBCi Tuesday also signed a deal with Clear Channel Comunications Inc. to promote NBCi on Clear Channel's more than 425 radio stations and Internet properties. NBCi has committed to purchasing $405 million in advertising on NBC and cable over the next four years.

NBC is also paying Clear Channel $20 million over three years. In exchange, NBC will receive NBCi will receive placement across Clear Channel's Web properties.