After 16 years — or roughly “forever” in Internet time — the partnership between Microsoft and NBC has come to a close, meaning that MSNBC.com is no more. NBCUniversal has purchased Microsoft’s 50% stake in the venture, reportedly for around $300 million, and in the wake of the split, NBCUniversal now holds the full rights all MSNBC Digital Network properties including BreakingNews.com, Today.com, and of course, MSNBC.com. That last one, however, has undergone a name change considering its initials are no longer accurate. Enter NBCNews.com.
Microsoft and NBC joined forces way back in 1996 and with their powers combined launched the MSNBC TV cable network and its partner website MSNBC.com. NBCUniversal bought out Microsoft’s stake in the cable network some seven years ago in 2005, and now they’re snagging the other half and achieving total ownership of all things MSNBC. The thought process here seems to be that since both the cable news network and the web portal are owned in full, NBCUniversal will be able to tie the two more closely. In a statement about the split, NBCUniversal’s Vivian Schiller — head of a new division called NBC News Digital – said she believes this move will ”better align television with digital, innovate around how we deliver content to consumers, and fully integrate digital into everything that we do.”
Pushing more content to the web instead of relying on the rapidly aging cable news model is bound to do the network some good, but the name change could have serious implications, especially on the web where a URL is everything. For the time being, the old URL MSNBC.com reroutes to the new one, NBCNews, and it seems like it may stay that way for a while. In their own story on the subject, MSNBC (or NBCNews, or whatever they are now) said there’s a two-year transition process in the works, presumably one that involves URL redirection. In the meantime, you can expect NBCNews to push their new name hard.
For the moment, nothing has really changed besides the name, but that said, a longstanding partnership in digital news distribution has come to a close. Whether or not that fact will amount to anything more than a mere triviality is something we’ll have to watch play out over the coming years.