The Liberty Digital division of Liberty Media Group last
week added an equity share in iBEAM Broadcasting Corp. to its portfolio.
But that and an unspecified stake in Interactive Pictures
Corp. (IPIX) earlier this month do not represent packaging opportunities, since there are
no plans to mesh together these and other Internet investments, said Lee Masters, Liberty
Digital's president and CEO, in a phone interview last week.
As for its other previous investments -- Priceline.com
Inc., Drugstore.com Inc. and iVillage Inc. -- Masters pointed out that Priceline.com went
public last week, and that iVillage did so before that. Drugstore.com going public is
imminent, he added.
Looking beyond these announcements, Masters said there are
no direct cable investments close to happening for Liberty Digital. "That's
going to be a while," he noted.
There are possible cable-network tie-ins, though. Masters
said San Francisco-based iBEAM, which is now "in the test stage," will work with
cable networks and other companies that stream video and audio via their Web sites.
Formed last year, iBEAM is building a satellite-based
network for the large-scale distribution of streaming via the Internet, in order to bypass
the network congestion that typically inhibits such Webcasts.
As for IPIX, that San Jose, Calif.-based company said 1,500
Web sites have already adopted its interactive, 360-degree-by-360-degree photo-imaging
Masters, who called IPIX "a killer broadband and
digital-TV application," cited real estate companies as a primary target for that
Related to that, Cendant Corp. -- which owns Coldwell
Banker and Century 21 -- is among IPIX's latest investors. Richard Smith, chairman
and CEO of Cendant's real estate division, said in a prepared statement, "IPIX
virtual tours are a competitive advantage for our real estate brokers and agents."
IPIX said its technology can also take viewers inside, say,
a new Honda Accord or NASA's Discovery space shuttle.
Jim Phillips, IPIX's chairman and CEO, added,
"Our investors feel, as we do, that IPIX will be the true visual connection between
e-commerce, entertainment and the ubiquitous viewing of interactive content on the
Liberty Digital was among several companies investing a
combined $13 million in iBEAM's latest round of financing and investing a total of
$28 million in IPIX. The latter's investors ranged from GE Equity and American
Express Co.-Travel Related Services Inc. to Motorola Inc. and John Hendricks, CEO of
Discovery Communications Inc.
Liberty typically takes minority stakes -- often 20 percent
or 30 percent -- without management control.