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MSNBC partners for Germany

MSNBC will launch an online news service in Germany this August, the first international new media expansion for the company.

MSNBC will launch an online news service in Germany this August, the first international new media expansion for the company.

In collaboration with the largest German television news network, ZDF, the German-language site will be called ZDF-MSNBC. An MSNBC spokesman would not say if other international alliances were in the works, but did add that other deals were quite possible.

A staff of 20 journalists will churn out breaking stories and commentary about Germany for the 24-hour news operation. Some stories will also be translated into English and posted on MSNBC, the Web site and cable news channel produced jointly by Microsoft and NBC.

ZDF-MSNBC will no doubt benefit from the promotional power of NBC and Microsoft, which have kept the news service afloat despite harsh reviews from critics early on.

The deal also aims to sharpen MSNBC's competitive edge in a growing market of Net-TV news operations that include CNNfn, CBS, and SportsLine USA, and the recently announced ABCNews.com.

"The relationship between MSNBC and ZDF is a major milestone to provide an excellent and profitable Internet online news service for MSN," vice president of Microsoft's European interactive media group Rolf Skoglund said in a statement. "The German market is key when it comes to the worldwide activities of Microsoft in the field of interactive media businesses."

Features on the German site will mirror MSNBC's such as the Personal Front Page, which delivers top headlines, weather, stock quotes, and sports scores; Personal News Offline, which downloads news for offline reading; and Personal News Alert, which notifies users of breaking news.

"Over time, MSNBC will be selective about its partners, but other ventures might happen," the MSNBC spokesman said. "ZDF has a very extensive news operation worldwide. So in this case, they were a really attractive partner."

Today's announcement is a sign analysts say that MSNBC is finally getting over its rocky launch. "When it started out, it was terrible, but now it's getting better," said Bill Bass, online analyst for Forrester Research. As for ZDF, he added, "if you're going into a venture like this, who else would you want backing you but Microsoft and NBC?"