Dec. 23 -- NBC Universal and Microsoft today announced a restructuring of the MSNBC cable news channel.  Under the terms of the new agreement, NBC Universal has acquired a controlling interest in MSNBC and an option to acquire 100% of the cable channel within two years.  NBC Universal and Microsoft have also reaffirmed their strong commitment to MSNBC.com, which will remain equally owned by both parties.  Terms were not disclosed
“Acquiring a controlling interest in MSNBC will allow us to fully integrate the channel into our News operations and our overall cable platform.  MSNBC is a critical component of NBC News’ success and has made some key viewership gains in recent months,” said Steve Capus, President, NBC News, NBC Universal.  “Our partnership in the nation’s leading cable and broadcast news website, MSNBC.com, keeps us on the leading edge in the online world.  This combination of assets is unrivaled in network news, and we look forward to continuing a productive relationship with Microsoft for many years to come.”

“Together, Microsoft and NBC Universal have grown MSNBC.com to the No. 1 news site,” said Bruce Jaffe, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft.  ”We are totally committed to taking MSNBC.com to even higher levels of success through our unparalleled marriage of technological innovation and news content.”

MSNBC has been increasing its share of the cable news audience in the target demographic over the last half of 2005.  In November MSNBC had a 20 percent share of the audience in the evening hours, only 4 share points behind CNN.  This represents the smallest gap in nearly three years. 

In November 2005 MSNBC.com drew 22.3 million unique visitors and, for the tenth straight month, topped all other broadcast and cable news websites including CNN.com, according to Nielsen//Net Ratings.  Since March 2005 MSNBC.com has averaged 24 million unique visitors, more than the combined unique visitors of ABCNews.com, CBSNews.com and FOXNews.com.

About NBC Universal
NBC Universal is one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80% owned by General Electric, with 20% controlled by Vivendi Universal.

About MSN and Windows Live
MSN attracts more than 440 million unique users worldwide per month.  With localized versions available globally in 42 markets and 21 languages, MSN is a world leader in delivering compelling programmed content experiences to consumers and online advertising opportunities to businesses worldwide.  Windows Live™, a new set of personal Internet services and software, is designed to bring together in one place all the relationships, information and interests people care about most, with enhanced safety and security features across their PC, devices and the Web.  MSN and Windows Live will be offered alongside each other as complementary services.  Some Windows Live services entered an early beta phase Nov. 1, 2005; these and future beta updates can be found at <http://ideas.live.com>.  MSN is located on the Web at <http://www.msn.com>.  MSN worldwide sites are located at <http://www.msn.com/worldwide.ashx>.

About Microsoft
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
Microsoft, MSN and Windows Live are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.  The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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