Rainbow, Primedia Team On N.Y. Concierge Effort


New York-With a firm grip on the New York cable, entertainment and sports market, Cablevision Systems Corp. now wants to be a "concierge" for New Yorkers.

Last week, the MSO' s Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. unit struck a deal with Primedia Inc.' s New York magazine to launch a regional Web site that that will offer users everything from restaurant reviews to profiles of local doctors.

The site-which will offer content from the magazine and video clips from Rainbow' s MetroChannels-will also sell tickets to Cablevision-owned properties such as New York Knicks National Basketball Association games and subscriptions to New York.

It' s the first deal Primedia CEO Tom Rogers has struck with the Dolan family since quitting his post as NBC Cable president last year. NBC is a part-owner of Rainbow.

"This is like an old homecoming for me-new ventures, old partnerships," Rogers said last week at a press conference announcing the venture.

Rogers struck an even bigger cable deal last Thursday, two days after the Web venture was announced. Liberty Media Group agreed to invest $200 million in cash in Primedia for a 5 percent stake in

the company and 1.5 million Primedia warrants.

Liberty Digital also picked up an option to acquire a 12.5 percent stake in the company' s new Primedia Broadband Video unit in exchange for cash and Liberty Digital or Liberty Media Group tracking stock.

And Primedia will buy $25 million of Liberty Digital stock "to cement further the relationship between the two companies," the company said in a prepared statement.

The Primedia-Rainbow Web site, which has yet to be named, will launch this fall. Rainbow and Primedia will split ownership of the venture equally.

New York will contribute content from its weekly magazine to the site, including its "Intelligencer," "Cue," "Critics," "Best Bets," "Smart City," "Sales and Bargains" and "Gotham Style" sections. The companies plan to form Internet and TV versions of the magazine' s special issues, such as "Where to Eat Now" and "Best of New York."

Rainbow president of regional programming Greg Moyer said the company plans to rebrand some MetroChannels programming, which will also run on the Web site.

The venture will compete with local sites in the New York market such as CitySearch, which is owned by USA Networks Inc.' s Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch Inc. division. It also faces competition from local Web sites such as The New York Times' New York Today site and those owned by other newspapers in the New York market.

In addition to offering restaurant and theater reviews, the site will offer photos and video of the establishments it profiles, and it will collect fees for booking reservations, Moyer said.

"There' s a sense that the Web site can be a concierge for people, that it can help them to find unique items that fit an individual' s particular need," he said. "It' s not so much about what do we stock, but it' s more about helping people to find what they want, and that may be where the value is."

The site may also offer personal ads and dating services, Moyer said.

While countless publications offer restaurant and theater reviews, Rainbow and Primedia are taking it a step further by selling tickets to shows and collecting fees for booking reservations.

The companies will form a "code of conduct," and it will inform users of the site what that code of conduct is, Moyer said. But he noted that traditional journalism standards are changing with the Web.

"I think everybody is at least open to a conversation that the rules may be changing somewhat, and I don' t think anybody in the industry quite knows where the rules are as it pertains to Web journalism-I mean, if there is such a thing as Web journalism," he added.

"We are not here to do some marketing-driven merger that compromises our editorial independence. That simply would not be possible," Moyer emphasized.

The venture may eventually go public. "It's intended that it would be monetized in the market," he added.