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Overture wins big-fish partners

The Yahoo subsidiary, known for its sponsored search listings, beefs up its challenge to Google as a provider of search technology through three new deals.

Yahoo subsidiary Overture Services has signed licensing deals with the online legs of the Cable News Network, ESPN and The Wall Street Journal, adding fuel to its rivalry with search leader Google.

Pasadena, Calif.-based Overture said on Monday that it has agreed to license search technology and sponsored search listings to the three content publishers in separate, multiyear agreements. The financial terms were not disclosed.

The partnerships will likely strengthen Overture's advertising revenue as well as give it strategic wins over longtime competitor Google. The companies have had an intense rivalry over signing up new partners for commercial search listings. In recent years, each has driven hard in negotiations to gain distribution for its advertising networks, sometimes landing a client at the expense of the other.

Overture, a pioneer in sponsored search listings, has made inroads into Google's domination of the market for Web search technology through its association with Yahoo.

"We've gone from being a one-trick pony to offering site search, sponsored search, content match and Web search, through Yahoo search technology," said Bill Demas, senior vice president of Overture's partner business.

Under its new deal with CNN.com, Overture will provide Web search technology for the site, replacing Google as the technology partner. The deal is an extension of an earlier commercial search agreement between the two companies. Overture will also become the sole provider of the sponsored ads that appear in search results and beside related stories on the news site--a service it calls Content Match.

For ESPN.com, Overture is providing licensed technology to serve ads that appear next to news stories and other editorial items. And for The Wall Street Journal Online, it will deliver sponsored search listings and Content Match to 689,000 online subscribers. The news site will also have use of Overture's search technology under that deal.

For its part, Google said it signed a licensing deal with BellSouth on Monday. The phone company is swapping out the homegrown search engine used in its Web service for more sophisticated Google technology.

And in a separate announcement, the Journal said it will use technology from Revenue Science to begin delivering behaviorally targeted display ads. The service, called Audience Search, will track people's reading habits to determine appropriate ads. For example, a reader that views several stories involving technology, investing and mutual funds might see a display ad for a major investment bank.