Eye invests in women’s Web site in trade for ads

CBS adds womensconsumer.com to its 'Net family

NEW YORK — CBS continued on its recent Web site buying spree by cutting a deal to purchase a 40% stake in Women’s Consumer Network in exchange for $50 million worth of advertising and promotion over a five-year period.

CBS’s majority-owned Infinity Broadcasting, the company’s radio station and billboard unit, will receive a share of the investment. The share will be in proportion to how much advertising womensconsumer.com does with Infinity’s properties.

The deal follows CBS’s strategy of trading advertising time on its TV network, TV stations, radio stations and billboards for ownership positions in dot com companies.

In July, CBS agreed to buy a 20% stake in online pharmacy Rx.com in exchange for $37.5 million in ad time over a four-year period. Also in July, CBS agreed to purchase 35% of Medscape, a health and medical information Web site, for $150 million in ad and promo time over a seven-year period.

These types of deals are attractive to CBS because they get equity in fast-growing new media companies without having to pay cash.

The Web sites like the arrangements because they receive ad and promotion time on broadcast entities seen by millions of people.

NBC has employed a similar strategy by promoting its Web investments, such as snap.com, on its broadcast network.

Unlike CBS, however, NBC will soon have a publicly traded company encompassing its Internet assets called NBCi.

CBS chairman Mel Karmazin has discussed the possibility of spinning his company’s Internet assets into a separate, publicly traded company, but no time table has been set.

ABC’s parent, the Walt Disney Co., has taken a different Internet approach. Rather than buying into already existing Web sites, Disney has created many of its own sites and has purchased the majority of the Internet portal Infoseek. The assets will be spun out into a public company called Go.com.

The privately held Women’s Consumer Network, based in Washington, D.C., is designed to help woman manage their finances, careers, families and everyday lives by researching products and services.

Launched in 1998, Women’s Consumer Network has a variety of sites that compete for women’s attention on the Web. These include iVillage, in which NBC owns a piece, and half a dozen female-targeted sites owned by Geraldine Laybourne’s Oxygen Media.

CBS’s other Internet investments include SportsLine USA, MarketWatch.com, Office.com and Wrenchhead.com.