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Microsoft, NBC Clarify Venture Details

Officials from NBC and Microsoft reiterated their plan for a joint venture.

At a midday meeting of officials from NBC and Microsoft, company representatives reiterated their plan to provide a three-pronged joint venture that will include a 24-hour news and information cable channel, a separate interactive project, and NBC Desktop--a PC-driven news service aimed at business and financial users.

Officials noted that the transition that will turn NBC's existing America's Talking cable channel into MSNBC is expected to take about six months. At the meeting, which featured a question-and-answer session with press members, company officials fielded many questions focused on demand for 24-hour news. Initially, the cable channel will be used to point viewers toward the online service, officials said. "It's not an either/or kind of environment. We're trying to meet the needs of both kinds of users," said officials.

The ability to customize the news and filter out stories the user doesn't want to read is what will make the new service appealing, according to representatives from both companies. This filtering feature, coupled with access to in-depth content such as historical information, maps, and links to archived NBC news footage will all serve to enrich the experience of online users, officials said.

Eager to dispel earlier rumors, NBC officials stressed that Microsoft will not be purchasing a stake in the overall broadcasting company. The deal does call for Microsoft to take a 50 percent stake in the NBC cable system that broadcasts America's Talking.