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Comcast Adds Fandango

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LOS ANGELES Comcast has acquired online movie ticket destination Fandango.

Fandango will be an integral piece of a new site Comcast is launching in the summer, Fancast, which is designed to provide one-stop shopping for viewers looking to track programming options across a range of platforms, including online and mobile.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is expected to close in the second quarter. One analyst, Jeff Wlodarczak of Wachovia Securities, pegged the purchase price at $200 million.

Fandango represents the continued Internet expansion of Comcast under its Comcast Interactive Media division run by Amy Banse. Fancast will join a growing stable of online properties including video destination Ziddio and the gaming-centric Game Invasion.

"As we developed Fancast, we realized Fandango was very complementary," said Comcast Interactive president Banse. "They are one of the premier online entertainment brands right now."

In Fandango, Comcast gets a growing site with about 5 million unique visitors each month. Fandango, formed in 2000 by seven of the top 10 largest U.S. theater chains, services movie ticketing for 15,000 screens.

"Fandango is already a leader in its category," said Chuck Davis, chairman and CEO of Fandango, who will remain with the company. "With jet propulsion coming from Comcast, it will only get an added kick in terms of brand, marketing, distribution and offerings."

Fandango has received strong competition for online tickets sales with MovieTickets.com, which had been mentioned in the past as a potential partner with Fandango. Market analysts also have speculated that Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp might have been interested in acquiring Fandango.

Fandango could get a lift from Comcast, which has a popular online presence through Comcast.net, which has 15 million unique visitors per month. Fandango, Fancast and Comcast.net will all continue to exist independently, but will be heavily integrated with each other.

Fandango derives roughly half of its revenue from online advertising, which has been growing faster than its revenue from tickets.

Fancast has been in development for the past nine months, preceding Comcast's interest in Fandango. "It is borne of our belief that customers are aware that there is a lot of content out there right now," Banse said of Fancast. "But they find it hard to find and access."

Here's how Fancast works: Viewers interested in the new movie Perfect Stranger could not only access information via Fandango on where and when the film is playing as well as content concerning the movie, but also the scheduling of movies on TV featuring Stranger stars Bruce Willis or Halle Berry. In addition, any related content on the Internet or mobile would be identified.

Fancast also eventually will allow Comcast subscribers to remotely program what their DVRs will record.

Banse declined comment regarding whether TiVo will play a role in the Comcast-Fandango linkup. The DVR firm is a mutual partner to both companies, providing its product soon as an option for Comcast subscribers and already facilitating ticket purchasing via Fandango over the TiVo platform.

Fancast also will facilitate DVD purchases through either a retail component to be created by Comcast or through partnerships with other online outlets. As part of the deal, Comcast plans to utilize Fandango's e-commerce capabilities in other unspecified ways.

One such area where e-commerce could come into play is in ticketing for sporting events, where Fandango already has begun to make inroads.