September 10, 2006 10:01 pm

NBC aims at surge in digital activities

NBC Universal is planning a rapid acceleration of its digital activities in the hope of increasing online revenues five-fold by 2009.

The plans will centre on a redesign of iVillage, the women’s website bought for $600m in March, but will also include the launch of a subscription website for CNBC, its business channel.

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Bob Wright, NBC chief executive, told the Financial Times iVillage would become the cornerstone of the GE-controlled group’s online activities, much as MySpace has become for News Corporation. The relaunch of iVillage, which attracts about 15m users a month, will add video and community tools, allowing its core audience of women aged between 30 and 50 to swap ideas and advice about topics ranging from health to news.

Mr Wright said it would be tied much more closely to NBC’s television programmes, highlighting the opportunity for cross-branding with the Today show, its morning magazine programme. “You’re going to see a lot more editorial combinations. It may be as common to see iVillage bringing material to the Today show as the Today show bringing material to iVillage,” he said.

It will this year launch iVillage Live, a television show available on the site, which it will also offer to television stations in the NBC network. The site’s relaunch will target advertising revenues from the beauty, health and fashion categories, but may also include subscription elements.

NBC is testing a new website for CNBC. The site will charge subscriptions for access to all interviews and features run on the cable channel, as well as real-time charts and a search engine.

The site, which will take advantage of the fact CNBC’s content is digital and easily transferable to the internet, will launch in the US at the end of the year and be rolled out internationally.

Analysts expect NBC’s digital initiatives to generate $1bn in revenues by 2009, up from $200m this year, and to generate margins of 35 to 40 per cent. Mr Wright said it was also looking at small acquisitions of marketing services companies.

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