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NBC puts 40 affiliates online

NBC Interactive Neighborhood launches local content on the Web sites of 40 NBC affiliates, the latest example of the convergence between TV and computers.

NBC Interactive Neighborhood launched local content on the Web sites of 40 NBC affiliates today, the latest example of the convergence between television and personal computers.

The local content market is getting crowded, however, with offerings from Microsoft's Sidewalk, Yahoo's local sites, and CitySearch, not to mention the numerous Web affiliates of local newspapers and television stations.

The offering from NBC Interactive will offer content from heavy hitters such as MSNBC, Infoseek, online yellow pages Big Yellow, Monster Board, and GIST online television guide.

Although the content on the site comes from these big-name content partners, the NBC affiliate sites are hoping that the local flavor and brand name will help them get a chunk of the estimated $70 billion lurking in local advertising revenue.

Some analysts think this combination of national partners and local affiliate recognition may propel the newest competitor to the top of the long list of community-driven sites.

According to Bill Bass, an analyst at Forrester Research, none of the roughly 70 existing local content sites are yet profitable, and he doesn't expect them to be in the near future. But Bass said a cornerstone to success will be allying with either a local newspaper or TV affiliate brand name, which NBC has done.

Bass is bearish about the chances of the "city site" market, calling it a "low-margin business," but he added that NBC may have put the right elements together to outlast the rest of the competition.

"It's not only a question of quality; it's more of a question of who you're working with," he said. "If you are working with a local television station or local paper, you will be around [in the future]."