NBC is buying a minority equity stake. But its investment can evolve into one comparable to that of America Online,, which to date is the largest minority investor in iVillage, an iVillage spokesman said.
Although details of the deal were not disclosed, it calls for NBC, a unit of General Electric, to promote iVillage on the air. iVillage also will be promoted on Snap, a Web portal jointly owned by NBC and CNET: The Computer Network, publisher of News.com.
Tom Rogers, president of NBC Cable and executive vice president of NBC, said that no cash is involved in the deal. "The currency we are using to acquire our interest in iVillage is promotional time," he said.
NBC also will receive a seat on iVillage's board.
"Women are to NBC what kids are to Disney," Rogers said. "Women are not only the majority of the population, but they are the majority of the NBC viewing audience."
The deal also will help further iVillage's goal of becoming a "household name, which is a considerable endeavor for which one needs big and powerful friends," said Candice Carpenter, iVillage chief executive and cofounder.
"We were thinking this is about branding and traffic driving to a mass audience. That is why broadcast promotion is actually the strongest way for us to get there," she added. "That is why [this deal] was more valuable to us than a cable network relationship or building a cable network."
The deal will give iVillage prime-time and daytime promotion. But it is not an exclusive relationship, Carpenter said. "On the Internet, it is fairly crucial to have multiple relationships. But we are committed to making the Snap relationship as big as possible because we felt that Snap was designed to reach the same mass consumer that iVilliage was designed for."
Carpenter said iVillage chose NBC over other media players because NBC could offer both broadcast and online assets and "the ability to put them together in a tightly conceived way."
Snap and iVillage will cobrand three content centers on Snap, including iVillage's family, parenting, and health areas. iVillage spokesman Jason Stell said the Snap search engine button also will be prominently distributed across iVillage.
"The on-air promotion will primarily promote the iVillage brand, but there will be a minority promotion of the Snap-iVillage cobranded area as well," Stell said.
iVillage, which was established in 1995, competes with the likes of Women.com and gets about 75 million page views per month. The site attracts a predominantly female audience, according to the company.