NBC Universal announced today that it has reached a deal to acquire majority control of MSNBC, the 24-hour cable television news network, from Microsoft.
The transaction could be the first step in ending a nine-year partnership between the companies, and puts NBC squarely in control of the network, which has lagged behind the Fox News Channel and CNN in the ratings race for years. NBC said it has an option to acquire 100 percent of the cable channel within two years.
The deal comes after nearly a year of negotiations to undo the partnership, in which each side was increasingly frustrated with the other.
But the companies said msnbc.com will be unaffected by the transaction and Microsoft and NBC, which is 80 percent owned by General Electric, will continue to equally own the Internet site.
As I mentioned on Monday, MSNBC TV and MSNBC.com are separate and distinct. No financial terms were announced.
Update: From bizjournals.com:
NBC Universal increased its 50 percent stake in MSNBC’ cable channel to 82 percent in the all cash deal. Under the new deal, NBC Universal will have the option to buy Microsoft’s remaining share of MSNBC to take 100 percent ownership within two years.