IQ News: NBC Opens Door To Its Portal Strategy With Cnet’s Snap

Having a stake in an Internet portal–a Web site viewers will see when they first log onto the Web–has emerged as the current rush-to-complete business deal. But NBC last week became the first TV network to officially announce a portal strategy, in purchasing a minority stake in CNET’s slow-to-build Web-based service Snap Online.
But it’s unlikely NBC will be alone among its network brethren in launching a portal service. The Buena Vista Internet Group, parent company of Disney Online, ABC Internet Group and ESPN Internet Group, has indicated an interest for some time in aggregating content to become a portal, but has yet to release details. CBS and Fox, however, have no specific plans to take on the front gate.
Naturally, NBC is bullish about its plans to get into the portal game, which is currently dominated by mega-sites such as Yahoo and Netscape. “People show up at portals not having determined what they want to see or buy,” said Marty Yudkovitz, president of NBC Interactive Media. “The value of capturing a viewer at a decision-making point is a far more valuable place than once they’ve arrived at where they intend to go.”
However, some observers see portals as just another flash-in-the-pan. “Portal is this year’s push [technology],” said Scott Ehrlich, senior vice president and executive producer, News America Digital Publishing, which publishes Fox News, Fox Sports and TV Guide Entertainment Network.
Meanwhile, CBS has been building sites, such as a recently-launched Frank Sinatra site and a new venue for The Late Show With David Letterman. Derek Reisfield, president of the CBS New Media Group, indicated more of an interest in working on distribution deals for such sites. “Now that we did the Sinatra site, we know we have the capability,” Reisfield said. “We want to tell the search engines about it.”
NBC’s deal with CNET calls for the network to purchase almost 5 percent of CNET for $26 million and $5.9 million for its stake in Snap, with an option to buy the remaining 60 percent of the service for $38 million. The network also gets majority representation on Snap’s board. How NBC will incorporate its brand into Snap hasn’t been determined.
Any company which enters the portal wars at this point will come up against a bevy of competitors. In addition to Yahoo, each of the major search engines is planning to enter the category, and Netscape plans to launch a new version of its NetCenter portal by month’s end.
The idea of making portals the centerpiece of each user’s entry onto the Web came about because of the popularity of such online funnels as America Online. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, which had planned to compete against AOL with its faltering Microsoft Network, is also planning a portal service, called