"[Television and radio] also started with utilitarian content, but quickly broadened to include entertainment," Hassett said.
He summed up the company's strategy as follows: "Our goal is to entertain. The site was designed to provide the user with something else to do on the Internet when you're done with utilitarian tasks like checking email, news, and stocks."
The site will offer skill, knowledge, and chance games that will reward players with points. Recipients can then use those points toward hourly sweepstakes-style giveaways of prizes that range from small cash awards to vacations and vehicles. The more points a user spends on a give-away session, the higher his or her chances of winning.
PrizePoint will earn money through advertisements tightly integrated into the site's design. Some ads are not clearly identified, and when users click on them, further information about advertised goods comes up within the PrizePoint gaming console.
Some of the site's prizes will be provided by advertisers; PrizePoint will have to shell out for others. Hassett said he expects to move beyond the pure advertising model toward a more direct e-commerce model, eventually partnering with third-party vendors and making products directly available through the site.
PrizePoint is privately funded. Investors include Encompass Ventures and Trans Cosmos USA.
Last summer, PrizePoint ran a beta test for the product.
The company's management team includes other former PointCast employees. Hassett is president and chief executive, while Frank Blot is vice president of marketing and business development. John Nogrady, PrizePoint's vice president of engineering, was director of engineering at PointCast.
Hassett still is a stockholder in privately held PointCast, but no longer is an employee of the company. As reported, PointCast shelved its IPO last year, but is negotiating an alliance with regional Bell telephone companies.
Prizepoint's launch comes amid a flurry of start-up ventures on the Internet, including Drugstore.com, an e-commerce site that is expected to launch by March. Drugstore.com is led by another technology veteran, former Microsoft executive Peter Neupert.