Sony expands web presence

Company stakes out youth & Latino sites

Sony Corp. said Tuesday it has taken an equity stake in popular urban youth Web site Platform.net and Spanish-language site Yupi.com to expand the reach of its film and music brands online.

The move further broadens Sony’s stake in online ventures after investing in OnRadio, Launch Media and electronic mail operator Infobeat. It also owns half of direct-sales group Columbia House, which is merging with online retailer CDnow.

Platform.net, an e-tailing site, which also includes an e-zine about hip-hop and DJ music, action sports, and the streetwear/urban gear scene, targets the $12 billion urban youth market worldwide. It also includes chat, messaging and e-mail services.

Sony Music will provide strategic direction for the company.

“We are excited to work with dynamic companies like Platform,” said Fred Ehrlich, senior veep and general manger, new technology and business development, Sony Music Entertainment. “Platform has developed a great network that successfully appeals to today’s youth.”

Sony’s investment enables Platform to launch a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign.

“Our buzz on the street has always been great,” said Ben White, who founded Platform in 1997 with partners Tina Imm and Stephen Greco. “Now we can get the message out there even more effectively.”

Going global

Platform draws at least 30% of its audience from non-U.S. households. The site next plans to open branches in Japan and Germany, as well as host a three-day music-and-art fest called ART4M, which is being produced this October in New York.

Sony’s investment in privately held Yupi.com marks its first direct deal with a Latin American online business.

The Miami-based Web publisher operates a Spanish-language Internet search engine, chat rooms and other Web services, which last spring sold for $13 million to a Miami venture capital group and Internet service provider IFX Corp.

Sony said it will use Yupi.com’s outlets, which claim 6 million monthly visitors, to promote films, TV shows and recordings by Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen and other musicians under contract to Sony.

Spanish-speaking Internet users are expected to top 40 million in Latin America, the United States and Spain by the end of 2000, according to a recent International Data Corp. study.

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