April 23, 2001 11:15 AM PDT

Microsoft, NBC to fuse finance sites

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Microsoft and NBC on Monday said they plan to merge MSN MoneyCentral and CNBC.com to compete more aggressively in online financial information and news.

The new site, dubbed CNBC MoneyCentral, will bundle personal finance information from the Microsoft operation with CNBC's breaking news. The site will be distributed through Microsoft's Web portal, MSN.com, and on CNBC's cable channel.

"At Microsoft, we believe that this is one of those central services that consumers and individuals are interested in," Rick Belluzzo, president of Microsoft, said during a conference call. "Bringing these capabilities together?is really groundbreaking."

Job cuts will occur when the two divisions merge, executives said. Bob Wright, chief executive of NBC and vice chairman of the TV network's parent, General Electric, said an employee reduction from both sides will occur but declined to say how many people would be affected.

"There probably will be some adjustments but nothing substantial," Wright said during a conference call. "Microsoft will be the major player in organizing the head count. We have to work over the next couple of months to figure out how that works out."

Editorial responsibilities will be split between Microsoft's offices in Redmond, Wash., and CNBC's offices in Fort Lee, N.J., the companies said. Erik Jorgensen, general manager of Microsoft's Consumer Financial Products Group, will oversee operational management of the site.

Microsoft and NBC are no strange bedfellows. The companies in 1995 entered into a joint venture to create MSNBC, a cable channel and Web site devoted to breaking news. At the time, the move was largely viewed as Microsoft's first serious foray into media.

"This is sort of a deja vu," NBC's Wright said. "It's been five years since we formed the partnership, and here we're forming another vehicle."

Wright added that NBC considered other partners for CNBC.com but chose Microsoft because of the companies' history of working together

Still, after many false starts in its own online strategy, Microsoft has largely stepped back from creating editorial content, aside from its Web magazine, Slate.

Wright and Belluzzo declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, although they said the site would initially sell advertisements. Belluzzo added that the site would avoid subscription fees at this time but would not rule out the possibility in the future.

The CNBC MoneyCentral site will officially debut this summer.

 

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