Medical Web Sites in Healthy Faceoff


Competition among health-focused Web sites is heating up as
two new cable-backed sites gear up.

Hundreds of general and specialized health sites already
compete for the attention of the fit and those who wish to be.

Earlier this month, America Online Inc. signed a four-year,
$89 million alliance with Inc., the health care directory backed by former
surgeon general C. Everett Koop.

Along with its cable-channel counterpart, The will be rebranded today (July 19) from America's Health Network
following its acquisition by Fox Entertainment Group Inc.

And launched on the first of this
month, preceding the debut of cable network Discovery Health, which premieres Aug. 2.

Discovery Communications Inc. wasted no time promoting the
new site. In Manhattan, the company paid "Rollertisers" to inline-skate down the
sidewalks on the day the site launched, handing out coupons with discounts on
health-related videotapes and other products at Discovery Stores. One promoter in each
group wore a flat-screen TV with a display of the new Web site.

Discovery also began a spot-TV broadcast campaign July 1
leading up to the week of the cable channel's launch next month, according to Discovery
Health president John Ford.

He added that Discovery Health is in conversations with AOL
and other portals, and it expects to have something to announce later this summer.

Last week, The Health Network announced that it has
partnered with high-speed service provider Road Runner to bring broadband health content
to its cable-modem customers starting today.

To showcase the launch, THN plans to show a live birth by
C-section of triplets over its Web site, with highlights on its cable network. president Tod Fetherling said he
doesn't think the Web site will cannibalize viewership from the cable channel, but that it
will increase overall interest in the brand. Advertisers will be able to reach consumers
not only through the cable network and online, but also with special broadband content.

Ford predicted that viewers would bookmark various Web
pages that promise more detailed information as they watch Discovery Health on cable.
"If they're very involved in the program, they'll stay with us," he said.

Because Discovery Health is a brand new site, "We have
to build a track record" before selling advertising, Ford said, adding that he
expects to announce the charter advertisers for both the TV network and the Web site

At press time, Discovery Health was still finalizing its
first carriage deals. Ford estimated that the network would have 15 million subscribers by
the end of the year.

Because it's taking over an existing channel, THN launches
with 17.5 million households today. Fetherling said this will give its Web site higher
visibility than Discovery Health.

Fox is promoting the Web site's and cable channel's
relaunch with cross-channel ads on Fox Sports Net and Fox Family Channel, as well as
portal and banner relationships with online services.