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Netscape turns on the charm

The firm launches a glitzy movie studio campaign to push the consumer-oriented content on its Netcenter portal site.

Netcenter 2.0--the portal with a comparatively businesslike reputation--is going for the glitz.

In a move to promote its consumer-oriented content offerings, Netscape Communications' newly revamped portal site today announced its "Silver Screen Sweepstakes," part of a $10 million fall marketing campaign cosponsored by entertainment industry heavyweights including Warner Brothers Online, Paramount Digital, Hollywood Online, and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

In addition to promoting the sweepstakes on their sites, the studio partners will supply the prizes, which include a home entertainment system, a trip to the Warner Brothers studios, and studio merchandise.

Netscape said late last month it was in talks with several major media firms, but it didn't specify the nature of the discussions. The hint of a big media alliance was enough to boost the company's stock significantly.

Portals are sites that aggregate content and services in an attempt to become Web users' point of entry and frequent reference. The success of portals has made them the Web's most highly valued properties. Netscape turned its highly trafficked front door into a portal late last year to cash in on the phenomenon.

Netcenter has claimed that its traffic spikes during business hours, which means that a disproportionate number of its users are accessing the site from work. Netcenter has catered to that audience, filling out the site with an array of business offerings.

But to meet its stated goal of becoming the leading Web portal by the year 2000, Netscape is also going after the consumer market currently dominated by portal champion Yahoo.

Netcenter reevaluated its strategy after internal studies showed the portal's increasing appeal to consumers, according to Mike Homer, Netcenter's general manager.

"We originally thought that our site mostly appealed to business people," Homer said. "But research we were doing showed that more and more consumers were on the site. The mix is more like 50-50."

Homer went on to explain that many people who access the site from work do so as consumers, checking their stocks or exploring Netcenter's content channels.

Netcenter will spend $10 million to promote the sweepstakes on the Web and on other media.

Netcenter is not the only portal attempting to entice users with a sweepstakes. Snap last month launched a prize giveaway in an attempt to attract users. Snap is a division of CNET: The Computer Network, which publishes NEWS.COM.

CNET also provides content for Netcenter's computing and Internet channel.

Netcenter's sweepstakes will run for ten weeks starting July 29. Terms of the studio deals were not disclosed.