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NBCU Wants to Get Into Business With TV Anchors Like Mika Brzezinski

 Mika Brzezinski is best known as one of the two hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” but that network’s corporate parent just recognized her as a budding entrepreneur – and formed a business venture with her.

NBCUniversal News Group and Brzezinski will hold stakes in an operation in which the anchor will host a daylong event in five different U.S. cities exploring the challenges women face in their careers. An extension of her Weinstein Books tome “Knowing Your Value,” the live presentations will bring together national and local experts and offer advice and mentoring opportunities. As part of the pact, MSNBC will feature a new “Know Your Value” digital resource center that offers regularly updated content, live-streaming of conferences and networking opportunities.

The agreement is the latest attempt by NBCUniversal’s news operations to dip toes into new ventures as more journalists test enterprising ideas. As entrepreneurs like Nate Silver and Ezra Klein gain traction for nascent efforts like ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight or Vox, NBCU wants to try similar ventures. “We can bring some value to keep it under the corporate umbrella, and we’ve got these platforms, which can provide additional promotional support,” said Elisabeth Sami, senior VP of strategy and business development at NBCUniversal News Group, in an interview.

The interest comes as consumers access news and information in ways that do not always include a TV network. In 2013, 82% of Americans said they got news on a desktop or laptop and 54% said they got news on a mobile device, according to Pew Research Center. What’s more, 35% reported they get news “frequently” on their desktop or laptop, and 21% on a mobile phone or tablet. NBCUniversal has made investments in Re/code, the tech-news outlet owned by Revere Digital, and Now This News, a provider of shortform video through mobile and social-media outlets.

Brzezinski says the idea of extending the ideas in her 2011 book, in which she talks about mistakes she has made in negotiations during her career, has long bubbled. “I found the challenges were universal,” she said in an interview. “I got such an incredible reaction to that book.”

She tested the concept with an event in Hartford, Conn., she said, enlisting Gayle King, now co-anchor of “CBS This Morning,” to attend and give a keynote speech. With reaction overwhelmingly positive, Brzezinski said, she approached Pat Fili-Krushel, chair of NBCUniversal News Group: Would the company be interested in partnering to build a bigger concept? The answer, she recalled, was a quick yes.

More is on the way, said Brzezinski. “We are going to have a competitive aspect to it,” with stories and advice posted on the website, she added. “We are going to look at every aspect of women’s value, from body language to presentation to the fashion part of it to communication skills to confidence.” If the online community grows, she said, “perhaps we can take this beyond five cities.”

The venture is announced as Brzezinski attains a somewhat larger profile. A new book, “Grow Your Value,” is scheduled to debut in May. And she has gained more prominence in the 8:30 a.m. segment of “Morning Joe.” At that time, co-host Joe Scarborough cedes the set to Brzezinski and moves to the control booth. The next half-hour is generally devoted to issues focused on women. She credits Scarborough with devising the idea.

“I was not looking for more work,” said Brzezinski, who noted she gets up at 3:30 in the morning to get ready for “Morning Joe.” With the reaction to the book, she said, she realized there was more outreach that could be done. NBCUniversal, no doubt, is hoping other journalists may step forward with similar ideas rather than tackling a book project or other passion by taking a sabbatical.

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