Comcast Interactive Capital Group, which was hatched at the
beginning of this year to energize Comcast Corp.'s Internet presence, has ponied up $3.75
million for a minority stake in CultureFinder.com.
This arrangement gives the MSO a larger slice of the online
ticketing bonanza via the eyeballs and, hopefully, the pocketbooks of a coveted audience
comprised mostly of well-heeled, highly educated and brand-conscious women. Such
top-drawer advertisers as Lexus and American Express have recognized the potential of the
Web site, which positions itself as a provider of comprehensive arts listings, with
recommendations, as well as full-price and discount ticketing services.
Total online ticket purchases in 1998 tallied $360 million,
according to analysts' estimates, making the category one of electronic commerce's most
active components. CultureFinder.com started its online ticket service in December of last
year and projects first-year sales of $1 million, a company spokesman said.
"They bring passion, experience and an intense focus
on arts consumers and arts organizations," said Julian A. Brodsky, chairman of
Comcast Interactive Capital Group. "Their technology is eminently leasable to other
sites." Brodsky confirmed that Comcast's $3.75 million represents 35 percent to 40
percent of CultureFinder's ownership.
Comcast's purse strings will provide CultureFinder.com with
new opportunities to extend its e-commerce brand. "We will dramatically expand the
sale of arts-related products such as CDs and videos and cultural travel packages, which
are seamlessly integrated amongst our listings," said Eugene Carr,
CultureFinder.com's founder and CEO, in a statement. Carr, formerly the executive director
of the American Symphony Orchestra in New York, and his management team will maintain
control of the company.
The site features more than 350,000 listings for live and
visual arts events and exhibitions, and tickets for virtually all of them can be purchased
online. Listings include myriad cultural endeavors in both the U.S. and Canada, including
theater, classical music, opera, dance, jazz, and museums.
The site has garnered accolades, including a four-star
rating from Yahoo! Internet Life as the best online cultural directory.
CultureFinder.com recently expanded its local coverage in
15 top markets: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Houston,
Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Atlanta
Brodsky's Internet venture unit has also invested in other
outfits such as online travel service Biztravel.com and VeriSign Inc., a provider of
digital authentication services for e-commerce firms.
Comcast is not the only MSO that has pursued value-added
opportunities in cyberspace. MediaOne Group Inc., for instance, owns stakes in such online
entities as CBS SportsLine, Preview Travel, Golf.com