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Prodigy packs for move to Web

Prodigy may soon follow Microsoft Network onto the Web.

    Prodigy may soon follow Microsoft Network onto the Web.

    "We haven't announced anything yet, but it's certainly not a far cry," a Prodigy spokesperson said. The company, which now has 2 million users, plans to convert all its content from its current proprietary programming language to HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) by the end of the year, the spokesperson said. Seventy percent of Prodigy's content is already in HTML format.

    The company's strategy is to attract more users on the Web and thereby strengthen the Prodigy brand name. The number-three online service is also planning to focus more on creating original content, instead of renting material from other publications such as Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, according to officials.

    Both strategies are evident in "The Night People" Web site, scheduled to launch tonight. The site will feature a variety of live nightly discussions beginning every midnight. The site can be found at www.prodigy.nightpeople.com after midnight tonight.

    Prodigy is formulating the new strategy as it struggles to shed its "for sale" sign. Sears, Roebuck last month announced plans to sell its 50 percent stake in the company. Sears launched Prodigy in 1984 jointly with IBM, the service's other corporate parent, which announced last week that it is also seeking potential buyers.

    Prodigy's president, Edward Bennett, reportedly wants to save the company by buying it himself. He has approached Wall Street investors to support a buyout agreement that valued Prodigy between $500 million and $700 million, according to a report in today's New York Times.

    But the plan to try to attract more users by moving to the Web may come too late for some employees of the struggling online service. Source close to the company speculated that Prodigy may announce as many as 350 layoffs this week. Company officials declined to comment.

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