As first reported by CNET News.com, NBCi will also take a minority equity stake in San Francisco-based Bigstep.com, which offers a suite of Web hosting services to small businesses looking to build and market e-commerce sites, track visitors and communicate with customers.
Bigstep's tools will be offered to consumers who access NBCi to build personal home pages and participate in online community services, as well as those seeking to add full service electronics stores and e-commerce services. NBCi customers will also be able to create online catalogs, accept credit card orders and receive detailed traffic and revenue reports.
Financial terms of the multiyear agreement were not disclosed.
"This is a big step for both companies," said Melissa Shore, an analyst at Jupiter Communications. "It signifies NBCi's commitment to extend its customer base from consumer to small-business. For Bigstep, it means access to NBCi's customer base."
The agreement comes amid a time of transition for NBCi as it continues to explore new avenues for capturing revenues. The San Francisco-based company said it does not expect to turn a profit until 2002. CNET Networks, publisher of News.com, owns a stake in NBCi.
"There are a lot of partnerships being structured out there with no real value, or just media placement, but this agreement is significant because NBCi has made an investment in Bigstep and it is a performance-based multiyear deal," Shore said.
However, there are some negatives, she said.
"Is NBCi on the top of the list when small businesses want to set up a Web presence, or is it Yahoo or Excite? There needs to be more clarity on what NBCi wants to become, and what they want to do."
The company recently warned of a wider second-quarter loss because of sagging advertisement sales and acquisition costs. NBCi, which is partly owned by General Electric's NBC unit, was formed when NBC merged its Internet properties with Xoom.com and Snap.com.
Just last month, NBCi said it plans to phase out the Snap and Xoom names and combine them and others under the NBCi brand in a new search directory later this year.