NBC Universal to Take Over MSNBC

NBC Universal bought out Microsoft’s interest in MSNBC, the cable television channel that that the two co-founded in 1996 in an attempt to create early synergy between the Web and cable television.

According to Friday’s announcement, NBC Universal has acquired a controlling interest in MSNBC and an option to acquire 100 percent of the cable channel within two years.

At the same time, the broadcaster and Microsoft said they remain committed to MSNBC.com, which will remain equally owned by both parties.

The terms of the buy-out were not disclosed.

In a statement, Steve Capus, president of NBC News, a subsidiary of NBC Universal, said, “Acquiring a controlling interest in MSNBC will allow us to fully integrate the channel into our news operations and our overall cable platform. MSNBC is a critical component of NBC News’ success and has made some key viewership gains in recent months.”

The companies claimed that MSNBC had increased its share of the cable news audience in its target demographic over the last half of this year.
They said that in November, MSNBC had a 20 percent share of the audience in the evening hours, 4 share points behind CNN, representing the smallest gap in nearly three years.

Meanwhile, MSNBC.com drew 22.3 million unique visitors in November, topping all other broadcast and cable news Web sites, including CNN.com, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Since March 2005 MSNBC.com has averaged 24 million unique visitors, more than the combined unique visitors of ABCNews.com, CBSNews.com and FOXNews.com.

The Web site worked to include local news content, as well as local
and promotions.

“Together, Microsoft and NBC Universal have grown MSNBC.com to the No. 1 news site,” Bruce Jaffe, Microsoft corporate vice president, said in a statement.

Capus added that the Web site added tech cred to the venerable broadcasting operation. In his statement, he said, “Our partnership in the nation’s leading cable and broadcast news website, MSNBC.com, keeps us on the leading edge in the online world. This combination of assets is unrivaled in network news, and we look forward to continuing a productive relationship with Microsoft for many years to come.”

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