Under the deal, announced Thursday, the companies said Internet Broadcasting, which runs a network of sites for news channels, will operate Web sites for NBC's local stations. However, General Electric-owned NBC will retain control of the editorial content. NBC's TV stations division owns and operates 13 stations across the country, including WNBC in New York, KNBC in Los Angeles, WMAQ in Chicago and WCAU in Philadelphia.
An NBC spokeswoman said the company expects all 30 NBC employees at station Web sites to continue working for the sites as Internet Broadcasting employees. She added that the 17 sales-staff members who work for the local TV sites will remain NBC employees.
"Bringing the best news coverage to the communities we serve is a top priority for NBC," David Overbeeke, senior vice president of e-business at the company's TV stations division, said in a statement. "We've found that combining the power and reach of television with the interactivity of the Internet is an ideal way to achieve that goal."
The announcement comes shortly after many broadcasters saw huge jumps in traffic at news-focused Web sites, as people sought up-to-the-moment coverage of last month's jetliner hijackings and their aftermath. During the week of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, news hubs such as ABCNews.com, CNN.com and The New York Times site became inaccessible with the huge influx of viewers.
Despite an increased interest in online news, Jarvis Mak, an analyst at measurement service Nielsen/NetRatings, says local TV stations' fiercest competition for Web-based viewers may be old adversaries: newspapers.
"As far as local TV stations being an up-to-date presence (online), I think they would have a hard time competing initially with the newspapers because newspapers are more commonly seen as the go-to source for local information," Mak said.
NBC and Internet Broadcasting, however, are betting that the partnership will help the network entice larger local audiences with the latest headlines. The companies are also hoping advertisers will see an opportunity to reach local audiences with integrated TV and Web campaigns.
"At a time when dot-coms are facing a real struggle and the media landscape is looking at redefining itself, we're so pleased...to be growing and not going in the other way," said Reid Johnson, president of Internet Broadcasting.
Founded in 1996, Internet Broadcasting, which has headquarters in New York and Minneapolis, is owned by broadcasters including Hearst-Argyle, Post-Newsweek, McGraw-Hill and CanWest Global.