NBC to air Nightly News online

The half-hour nightly news program will be aired in its entirety and free of charge at MSNBC.com, starting Monday.

The NBC Nightly News will soon become the first U.S. news program to air its entire nightly broadcast on the Web, further evidence that content providers could eventually bypass traditional TV networks in favor of distribution over the Internet.

Starting Monday, NBC will offer the half-hour nightly news program in its entirety and free of charge online at MSNBC.com. The program will air on the Web starting at 7 p.m. PT after it has already been shown in all time zones across the U.S.

News divisions at all three major networks recognize that broadband is fast becoming a necessary tool for reaching viewers who have grown accustomed to getting much of their news from the Internet. As a result, each of the networks and cable news stations like CNN and Fox News are focusing more attention on their online properties.

Earlier this year, NBC anchor Brian Williams started writing a daily blog with an insider's look at the way the newscast is put together every night. And CBS News updated its Web site back in July, expanding its online coverage and creating a 24-hour news network with links between stories airing on the network and those running on the Web site. CNN also launched its free video service on its site earlier this year.

Today, all three of the major networks, ABC, NBC and CBS, along with Fox News and CNN, offer at least some video clips on their Web sites.

"This is the next logical step for 'Nightly' and NBC News," Steve Capus, acting president of NBC News, said in a statement posted on the NBC News Web site. "As the leader on the broadcast side, and with our partnership in the leading online news and information site, MSNBC.com, it couldn't be a better fit. We know that just as fast as technology is changing, people's lives are changing too, and they expect our newscasts to keep up with those changes. With this announcement we are doing just that."

Until now, the news organizations and other TV networks, such as MTV, have stopped short of providing full-length programs on their Web sites. Comedy Central launched its new broadband-enhanced video Web site called MotherLoad on Tuesday. But all that is currently available on the site are short clips from the regular cable lineup along with some short clips produced exclusively for the site.

The news channels also have limited their video to short clips, typically providing a text version of a story and a video link that goes along with it.

NBC's approach of airing an entire program originally produced for television on its Web site takes the online strategy in a different direction. While it's clear that NBC is not trying to replace its traditional television broadcast, it's easy to see how viewers could eventually bypass traditional cable and broadcast networks to watch all of their news over the Web.

The technology is already available to make this possible. Software is available to help ensure the quality of video as it travels over the public Internet. And companies like Microsoft and Cisco Systems' Linksys home division are already offering devices to allow people to watch programming from the Internet on their TV sets in their living rooms.

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