CBS buys big stake in Net search directory

iWon.com to woo users with money giveaways

October 06, 1999|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW YORK -- CBS Corp. said yesterday that it bought a majority stake in iWon.com, a new Internet search directory that will try to attract users by giving away millions of dollars.

Closely held iWon.com, known until yesterday as CTC Bulldog, will get about $70 million in advertising from CBS in exchange for a majority ownership stake.

CBS Chief Executive Officer Mel Karmazin will be a director of iWon.com and Neil Austrian, president and chief operating officer of the National Football League, will be nonexecutive chairman. He will retain his posts at the NFL.

Through iWon.com, whose smallest prize will be a $10,000-a-day giveaway, CBS hopes to tempt people onto its online sites, such as CBS.com, which will be part of the new service. iWon.com, which also will give away a guaranteed $1 million a month and $10 million once a year, is trying to stand out among a raft of Internet portals that perform the same basic services.

"If you get up on the roof and start throwing dollar bills off the roof, you are going to get noticed," said Bill Daugherty, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of iWon.com. "There's never been a large-scale cash sweepstakes that has failed to generate a considerable response."

Irvington, N.Y.-based iWon.com will offer e-mail, search services and online shopping, as well as content from Internet sites owned or partly owned by CBS, including CBS.com, Market- Watch.com Inc., SportsLine USA Inc. and Hollywood.com.

CBS plans to make iWon.com a separately traded company in the first half of 2000, people familiar with the companies' plans said.

For more than a year, Karmazin has been buying stakes in start-up Internet sites in exchange for promotion on CBS' TV, radio and billboard properties and use of the CBS name. He has said that, ultimately, CBS will house the sites in a separate company. iWon.com, if successful, could become CBS' main Internet portal and a rival to Walt Disney Co.'s Go Network, the Web search directory that Disney, owner of the ABC TV network, formed in January with Infoseek Corp.

CBS also hopes to attract iWon.com viewers to its network by announcing the monthly $1 million and yearly $10 million prizes during network prime time.

Under federal law, sweepstakes must have starting and ending dates. CBS said it will end the first run of the contest April 17, or "Tax Day," when it will give away the $10 million. iWon.com then plans to begin the giveaways again.

Pub Date: 10/06/99

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