IQ News: NBC Interactive Neighborhood Launches With Mazda as First National Sponsor

The local Internet market just got a little larger. Last week, NBC launched Interactive Neighborhood: Your Hometown Homepage, an online network that will supply content from NBC to its affiliates in exchange for national ad space.
Mazda has signed on as the charter national sponsor and is the exclusive advertiser in the automotive category. Mazda banners will rotate throughout the network during the fourth quarter.
Billed by NBC as a “coast-to-coast network” in the style of the first nationwide broadcast network in 1951, NBC-IN is a comprehensive service that will be accessible through NBC affiliates’ own sites. It launched with 50 affiliates, which together reach roughly 50 percent of U.S. households. “
In TV, convergence is the world of the future,” said Tom Rogers, president of NBC Cable and an NBC executive vice president, at a press conference in the New York studios of Saturday Night Live. While on-air promotions will drive traffic to the local sites, Rogers said he also expected the sites to drive audiences back to their television sets.
To create NBC-IN, the network signed deals with publishers who will offer repackaged content. For example, BigYellow’s link on NBC-IN will lead to an opening page carrying local city information. Sidewalk, the local entertainment guide owned by Microsoft (NBC’s partner in the MSNBC cable and online news service), will offer local entertainment listings.
Marty Yudkovitz, president of NBC Interactive, teased those gathered at the press conference last week by saying that NBC-IN planned for “more integration among NBC properties,” including Microsoft sources said they weren’t aware of any new developments, and an NBC representative later denied such plans were in the works.
The sites of NBC affiliates will be fitted with the NBC-IN template, where a menu bar will link to NBC-IN pages tailored to specific markets. At the top of each of these pages will be one national and one local ad, which local affiliates have the right to sell.
Patricia Karpas, vice president, interactive advertising and client marketing at NBC Interactive, said that existing sales staff, which have marketed customized sponsorships on, will also offer NBC-IN to advertisers.
The launch comes several months ahead of the expected debut of Warner Bros. Online’s CityWeb, a venture that, according to some industry insiders, prompted NBC and the other TV networks to rope their affiliates into online ventures. WB Online has been actively recruiting local TV stations, regardless of their broadcast affiliation, for a service that will offer local content along with syndicated programming from Time Warner properties.