Hearst Corp. invests in Canadian interactive

Hearst Corp. is taking off to the Great White North as part of a mostly Canadian effort to launch an interactive network serving Quebec City and Montreal.

At a news conference here Monday, linked via satellite to others acrossCanada , Hearst topper Frank Bennack Jr. and new media chief Alfred Sikes detailed Hearst’s 10% stake in the venture, which will provide E-Mail, directory, banking , educational, wagering and shopping services to consumers.

The interactive service itself will cost the user nothing, they said. Sikes said the partners expect to profit from volume purchases of their goods and services but would not provide specific revenue or income forecasts.

Universal Bidirectional Interactive, or UBI, is estimated to cost the five partners and cabler Le Groupe Videotron an initial $ C200 million and total $ C 750 million (about $ 153 million and $ 572 million) over the next five to eight years. About $ 191 million of that is expected to come from equity issuance, with the rest from cash flow.

Hearst said it will provide UBI with electronic directories, including business and telephone listings.

The group expects to launch the basket of services on more than 50 mega-channels by spring 1995 in the Saguenay region of Quebec Province. It will outfit 34,000 homes with a terminal and interface, remote control, printer and credit card reader.

By 1996, the consortium intends to install more than 1.4 million systems.

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