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Microsoft sells stake to Comcast, will launch new MSN news team

Microsoft sells stake to Comcast, will launch new MSN news team


Comcast is acquiring Microsoft's 50 percent stake in, reports the New York Times. The deal will allow NBC to cross-sell ads on its TV and online properties, while also allowing MSN to link to a wider variety

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After more than 16 years, is no more. Comcast (which controls NBCUniversal) has acquired Microsoft’s 50 percent stake in the online news site, and its URL now redirects to The New York Times reports that Comcast is giving Microsoft roughly $300 million in the deal, citing "people with knowledge of the transaction." will reportedly return in 2013, but only as the online presence for the MSNBC cable channel.

Microsoft is getting into online news reporting

Sunday's announcement confirms rumors swirling since May, when Adweek first broke the story of a potential buyback. It also simplifies the complex relationship between MSNBC the cable news channel and the website, and signals Microsoft's first direct entry into online news reporting.

Microsoft sold its interest in the MSNBC cable channel back in 2005, but had retained its share in The arrangement left ad sales for the site under Microsoft's control, reportedly hamstringing MSNBC’s efforts to sell advertising across its TV and web properties. The joint venture also limited Microsoft's MSN web portal to news from Now, MSN users will have a greater range of news producers to choose from, although Microsoft has agreed to continue highlighting top stories from for the next two years.

Non-exclusivity means more news variety for MSN

Bob Visse, general manager for MSN at Microsoft, told The Associated Press, "Being limited to content was problematic to us because we couldn't have the multiple news sources and the multiple perspectives that our users were telling us that they wanted." Meanwhile, NBC News president Steve Capus told The New York Times, "we think we have a much better opportunity to shape [our digital properties], and frankly grow the news division over all, if we have direct control over all of it." Former NPR CEO and recent NBC hire Vivian Schiller will lead as part of her role as NBC News' chief digital officer.

Most interestingly, though, Microsoft plans to strike out on its own this fall with original online reporting. Visse told the AP that MSN will be building a brand-new news team of approximately 100 journalists, or roughly the same size as the original group of reporters behind at its launch in 1996.

MSN's pairing of an online portal with original news puts them in competition with similar sites like AOL and Yahoo. But for stories and placement on MSN's home page, the new news outfit will now also be competing with its old partner

Still, "this is really an amicable breakup," said Schiller. "We think competition will make us better."

Tim Carmody contributed to this report