MS/NBC: How Microsoft Was Screwed

By Brian 

Here’s an explanation of this afternoon’s MS/NBC financial post, courtesy an anonymous tipster. As always, TVNewser can’t vouch for the accuracy, but he seems to know what he’s talking about…

msslashnbc.jpg“Taking it one step at a time: 1) CJV is the Cable TV operations — Microsoft is getting $331 million (in stock, debt, cash?) for 32% of the whole enchilada (putting an implied value of about $1 billion for all of MSNBC TV right now). Considering that Microsoft put in about $300 mil to start up MSNBC in 1996, by selling a partial stake now it is sorta made to look like Microsoft broke even and made 31 mil on the network. But, not really — Microsoft could have put $300 million into T bills back in 1996 and would now have about $500 million — so even the TV part looks lame. Microsoft is probably keeping 18% in order to muddy up that fact — they’ll tell analysts — “Hey, we broke even so far (not really) and that 18% we kept could be worth hundreds of millions down the road (only if O-mann wins a lottery…using NBC funds).

And that is only looking at the TV part. IJV — the internet part — is more confusing, although certainly a loss for Microsoft. It appears that Microsoft has to pay $200 million to get out of its Web site content deal with NBC early (shoot the MS’er who signed such a crappy contract back in 1996).

So while it can be made to look like MS broke even on the TV part (not really, MS could have been collecting T-Bill interest and would have $200 million more today) Microsoft is really screwed (well as screwed as a multi-bazillion dollar entity can really be on a relatively pissant deal) by the ‘content’ deal. Essentially, Microsoft has to pay NBC $214 million for leaving a bad party early on the Internet side of the deal. Somebody at Microsoft drank a lot of NBC kool aid back in 1996 in order to sign such a shitty deal.

But Microsoft can comfort itself that maybe the remaining 18% might be worth something someday (don’t hold your breath) and more importantly it can stop paying much attention to this turd blossom. But to put things in perspective, MS probably earns about $215 million (its current loss on turd blossom) every 7 days! Think of it as if Gates went on a bender in Tijuana for a week…perhaps not as reputable (he he he) but no more costly. The other lesson learned? GE knows how to contractually rape its prospective partners — even the brainiacs at MS.”