In a deal that may ultimately benefit its business-related
online offerings, Comcast Corp. said last week that it has invested several million
dollars in Internet-content provider Biztravel.com.
Comcast was part of a group that pumped $10 million into
the year-old service, which is aimed at businesspeople who travel a lot but who don't
use travel agencies or corporate travel departments. Other investors involved were earlier
backers: Intel Corp. and venture capitalists Accel Partners, Hummer Windblad and New
But Comcast put up 'the vast majority' of the $10
million, according to Mark Coblitz, the company's vice president of strategic
planning. Comcast vice chairman Julian Brodsky will join Biztravel.com's board of
Coblitz said Comcast, which was approached by an investment
banker associated with both companies, was impressed with Biztravel.com's service and
its management. He said it was the only online service he knew of that recommends travel
routes designed to maximize the use of frequent-flyer miles.
'We think that it'll be a good investment, and we
think that there are some ways that we might be able to work with them in some of the
things that we're developing,' Coblitz said.
Specifically, the service could be packaged with @Work, the
data-over-cable service aimed at businesses, which is a counterpart to the @Home Network
residential data service.
Investments in Internet content have been somewhat of a
mixed bag for cable operators, at least from a strategic perspective. Comcast's
earlier investment in Citysearch, an online community-information provider, has not led to
a direct tie-in with @Home, for example, although Coblitz such an arrangement is still
possible. Cox Communications Inc. owns a stake in ivillage, and it is still working on a
possible partnering arrangement, a Cox Interactive Media spokeswoman said.
U S West Media Group (which is changing its name to
MediaOne Group), though, has made several direct investments in companies that are
featured in its DiveIn localized Internet-content service. Those include CBS
Sportsline.com, Preview Travel and Golf.com.
Comcast has also invested in Infonautics, an online
electronic-information provider, and in Verisign, which provides digital authorization
services for electronic commerce. And the MSO has made indirect investments in Internet
firms through stakes in the KPCB Java Fund, Internet Capital Group and Media Technology
Ventures, Coblitz said.