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NBC Universal, Microsoft: No MSNBC Beef

8/27/2004 8:55 AM Eastern

NBC Universal and Microsoft Corp. executives are refuting industry buzz that the two companies are butting heads over their 50-50 MSNBC joint venture, which was formed in December 1995.

NBC Universal executive vice president Brandon Burgess and MSN Network general manager Scott Moore were both quoted in TheWall Street Journal Friday, and they both insisted that they are happy with the joint venture, which also includes MSNBC.com (www.msnbc.msn.com).

“It’s just not true,” Burgess told the Journal in response to talk that the two parties may go their own way.

Moore told the newspaper, “The state of the relationship is very healthy and, from the Microsoft side, we’re pleased with the way things are going.”

NBC spokesman David Frail also maintained Friday afternoon that the relationship between the Peacock and Microsoft is copasetic. “The partnership is very much alive,” Frail said, adding that Microsoft and NBC are exploring other ways to work together, including new products that could be developed with the entertainment assets NBC acquired from Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

“If you think about the spread of broadband and, of course, the growth of the Internet, with the creation of NBC Universal, at this point, there are more possibilities for the partners to consider, and we do that on a regular basis,” Frail said.

Microsoft and NBC reportedly signed a 99-year contract when they formed the MSNBC joint venture network and Web site.

Some industry observers questioned the strength of the NBC-Microsoft venture after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was quoted in June 2001 as saying, “If we were starting [MSNBC] now, as good of an operation as it is, I don’t think we would have started it.”

The joint venture took more heat in October 2002, when NBC parent General Electric Co. chairman Jeff Immelt told Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto that he envied News Corp.’s rival all-news network, which, like MSNBC, debuted in 1996.

“I want us to be able to take you on,” Immelt told Cavuto. “I think the standard right now is Fox, and I want to be as interesting and as edgy as you guys are.”

September