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CBS to buy 35 percent of Medscape

Continuing its march online, CBS says it will acquire a 35 percent stake in Medscape, a provider of health and medical information on the Net.

Continuing its march online, television broadcaster CBS today announced it will acquire a 35 percent stake in Medscape, a provider of health and medical information on the Net.

Under the terms of the deal, Medscape will receive a license to use the CBS trademark and logo as well as promotion and branding, valued at $150 million over a seven-year period.

The branding and promotion will stretch across all CBS media properties in broadcast and cable television, as well as those of its radio subsidiary, Infinity Broadcasting. Infinity will receive a pro rata share of the investment.

Medscape is a site for medical professionals, with more than 1.1 million registered members, the company said. But CBS and Medscape also plan to support CBS.Medscape, a Web site aimed at consumers that is likely to launch later this summer. The site will become the exclusive consumer health care Web site integrated into CBS News with the news programmers providing additional editorial content to the site, while Medscape will develop special online reports that complement CBS's health care programming.

In recent months, the online health space has heated up as a growing number of companies have jumped on board. In late May, Yahoo announced the launch of Yahoo Health, which offers news, advice from experts, and search capabilities, among other functions. On the same day, Fox Entertainment said it plans to launch the Health Network, which will offer health information and products for consumers, physicians, and hospitals through an integrated Internet and cable platform.

These announcements came on the heels of the agreement between Healtheon and WebMD to merge in a bid to provide one-stop services and information to consumers and physicians.

CBS has equity stakes in several Internet companies, including CBS SportsLine and CBS MarketWatch. Last month, the broadcaster made a $54 million investment in ThirdAge Media, a site with syndicated news and commerce services aimed at adults 45 and older.

Analysts note that the Medscape deal is a nice fit for CBS given its programming aimed at an older audience.

"The country is aging, and as we get older, health becomes a bigger part of our lives," said David Restrepo, a health care analyst at research firm Jupiter Communications. "CBS reaches that older demographic--which no one else seems to want--giving them a nice tie-in."

As the Internet slowly chips away at the TV networks' viewer bases, broadcasters are trying to marry their brands with online sites.

"Along with sports and finance--sectors in which we already hold Internet investments--health is one of the leading areas of interest among Internet users," CBS chief executive Mel Karmazin said in a statement. The consumer site "comes at a time when direct-to-consumer health care is one of the fastest-growing advertising sectors."

Medscape will provide expanded online coverage of stories, links to related articles, expanded online video and audio clips--many provided by CBS News--and subject-specific interactive features. CBS's broadcast viewers may be directed to CBS.Medscape.com for more in-depth information about topics covered in CBS News health-related programming.

The network's next Net purchase is expected to be announced in two to three weeks, CBS chief financial officer Fredric Reynolds told Bloomberg.

The next transaction for CBS, which has Internet stakes in a wide range of both established and start-up companies on the Web, likely will be some type of site that enables consumers to shop online. This would be similar to sites such as StoreRunner.com, an online shopping mall, Reynolds said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.