Microsoft is interested in shedding its stake in the MSNBC cable-news network it launched with NBC in 1996.

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Microsoft is interested in shedding its stake in the MSNBC cable-news network it launched with NBC in 1996.

But the software company wants to retain the MSNBC.com online news operation, according to a source involved in the discussions.

A New York Post report yesterday said Microsoft and NBC are “in advanced discussions” about a deal that would give NBC full control of the network and Microsoft access to some of NBC’s content.

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Representatives of NBC and MSNBC declined to comment.

The source said the Post story mischaracterized the discussions between Microsoft and NBC. Discussions have been ongoing, the source said, but they are nowhere near final.

There are no imminent announcements of any changes to the partnership, the source said.

Microsoft has invested more than $400 million in the venture it formed with NBC in 1995. The network began operating in 1996.

Speculation about the fate of MSNBC has been fueled by Microsoft’s steady divestment of Web ventures started in the late 1990s, including its sale of the Slate online magazine to The Washington Post Co. in December.

The online news business, based in Redmond, trimmed staff in 2002 to increase profitability, while the New Jersey-based cable group has lately added several new shows to boost its relatively low ratings.

“We’ve got a couple new things happening,” MSNBC spokeswoman Leslie Schwartz said, but she declined to comment on the state of the NBC-Microsoft partnership.

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com