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Netcenter ads pay off for Excite

The search firm says it has sold $21 million in advertising on Netcenter, but some of that will go back to Netscape.

When Excite shelled out $70 million for its partnership with Netscape Communications a month ago, skeptics wondered how the company would get its money's worth out of the deal. Now the company says it has started to do just that.

Excite paid Netscape $70 million--with the help of a loan from Intuit--for the privilege of powering the Netscape-branded search engine; gaining a guaranteed 25 percent of rotations for its own branded search engine on the Netscape search page; for helping Netscape build out its Netcenter content channels; and for a share of ad revenue gleaned from cobranded areas on Netcenter.

Today, following the debut of the Excite-powered Netscape-branded search engine, Excite announced that it had sold $21 million worth of advertising on Netcenter. That's 30 percent of the $70 million payment, secured in about a month since the partnership was announced, noted Excite chief executive George Bell in a statement.

But the math may be a little more complicated than Bell allows, since Netscape is entitled to a portion of that $21 million as it is with all of Excite's Netcenter ad revenues. The companies will not disclose what percentage of the ad revenues Excite gets to keep.

Excite also declined to disclose the length of the ad contracts it has signed in the last few weeks, except to say that they are "up to two years" in duration, or no longer than the partnership between Excite and Netscape.

Excite's ad sales announced today fell into keyword, directory, channel, and sponsorship categories. The company said inventory would expand as Netcenter rolls out new channels this month. The company also has beefed up its ad sales force with 12 new representatives.

"We're just at the beginning of this," said Excite executive vice president Brett Bullington. "We were always very bullish and excited about building strong ad revenue opportunities, and this is the first step showing that we can really deliver."