PointCast said it has no plans to drop its free, ad-supported channels, which host content targeted at business users, college students, and others. Its free business channel will continue to carry a dozen or more business information sources.
The company's new subscription channel, Companies Premier, will carry consensus Wall Street estimates from First Call, company profiles from Hoover's, comparative and financial data from Media General, financial and international news from Reuters Securities News, and company-specific commentary and analysis from Standard & Poor's Marketscope.
"Companies Premier is a natural extension of our Companies Channel," said Frank Blot, PointCast's vice president of business development. "We know already that a certain segment of our audience has the requirement for more in-depth information."
Although PointCast hopes to pick up new revenue from its subscription channel, few subscriber-based businesses have caught fire on the Internet so far. The biggest mainstream success has been the business content provided by the Wall Street Journal online edition. Also noteworthy is ESPN SportsZone, which includes a premium subscription option. Many adult content sites require subscriptions as well.
PointCast's new relationship with Visa effectively names the world's largest credit card as the site's preferred payment method. PointCast said it will accept payment with other cards, but will urge Companies Premier subscribers to pay with Visa. Other elements of the relationship, including a PointCast promotional effort for Visa's Secure Electronic Transactions protocol for secure online payments, will be introduced next year.
For its part in the deal, BarnesandNoble.com, which already sponsors PointCast's "Entry Point" start page for jumping from the service onto the Internet, will get premium placement on PointCast's companies, industries, news, sports, lifestyle, and health channels.
Subscription rates for Companies Premier will be announced when the service launches, which is expected to happen by March of 1998.