NBC News announced late Sunday evening that the organization has acquired full control of MSNBC.com, ending a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft. Adweek had first reported that divorce talks had gotten serious between the two companies back in May.
As of Sunday, all MSNBC.com traffic now redirects to the newly christened NBCNews.com. However, MSNBC president Phil Griffin told reporters today that plans are in the works to launch a separate MSNBC site at the beginning of 2013.
NBC News president Steve Capus said that one motivation for the split is to clear up some residual brand confusion between NBC News' broadcast operation and the cable news property of MSNBC. "While we truly value MSNBC.com, we also think the site isn't fully representative of either property. I don't think you see adequate representation of say Brian Williams, or Rock Center, or Rachel Maddow, or Hardball," Capus said in a conference call with reporters this morning.
Capus later denied that MSNBC's liberal leanings were problematic for the more neutral broadcast operation of NBC News. "There's a litmus test and it never points in that direction," Capus said. "People understand the difference between NBC and MSNBC."
Griffin made note that there will be no rebranding for MSNBC after the split from Microsoft. NBC's purchase of the full MSNBC venture will bring aboard hundreds of MSNBC.com employees, many of whom will stay on at the company's Redmond, Wash., facilities to establish an innovation center for digital media. As for advertising, NBC will begin a transition to take control of ad sales operations, which was previously controlled by Microsoft.
This week marks the 16-year anniversary of the launch of MSNBC, and the end of the joint venture with Microsoft is no doubt timed to highlight the growth of the MSNBC brand as well as the digital evolution of NBC News. Thus, with the announcement, Capus and Griffin pushed hard to emphasize the importance of NBC's newfound digital ownership and control. "I don't think people really understand the depth and breadth of this news organization. We are in a completely different league now," Capus said.