NBC Universal to Buy iVillage

NBC Universal has agreed to acquire women’s content portal iVillage for $600 million in cash, with plans to make iVillage.com the centerpiece of its digital strategy.

“iVillage immediately gives us scale and a profitable, established platform to expand our digital efforts, especially in the rapidly growing areas of health and women’s interests,” said Beth Comstock, president of NBC Universal digital media and market development. “This is all about creating important new intersections between community, content and commerce. We envision connecting more deeply online, on mobile and on-demand with key consumers throughout their various life stages.”

NBC Universal plans to bring its offline content to iVillage, including TV news shows like “Today,” prime-time shows like “Biggest Loser,” cable shows like Bravo’s “Project Runway,” and health and news content from its local TV stations, according to Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal Television Group.

“We think it matches up perfectly with all of our properties. We think there are opportunities to drive both brands,” Zucker said on a conference call with press this morning. “It will bring together the storytelling of news and entertainment.”

NBC Universal owns several news and entertainment networks, including NBC News, MSNBC, USA, Sci Fi and Bravo. It also owns a motion picture company, television production operations, a group of local TV stations, and theme parks. Online, NBC Universal sells ads on its suite of sites, and sells downloadable episodes of many of its top shows via iTunes. The company also had success online with NBCOlympics.com.

The focus of iVillage will be as a showcase for NBC Universal’s offline content, an important role for both for visitors and advertisers, according to Zucker.

“People are looking for original content in many different places, as are advertisers. This takes us into a whole new ballgame,” Zucker said.

The iVillage network primarily targets women, but there are sections of its network, such as the parenting channel, that attract men as well, and the gurl.com site targeting teens.

The company also has a good deal of health-related content in its network, including video content from last year’s acquisition of Healthology. That content will be used by NBC Universal and sister company GE Healthcare to “create a more customized consumer healthcare experience,” Comstock said.

NBC Universal will purchase 100-percent of the equity of iVillage for $8.50 per share. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2006 pending shareholder and regulatory approvals. Upon completion of the transaction, the iVillage team will report directly to Beth Comstock and continue to be based in New York.

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