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Merger makes Excite feel @Home

UPDATED: Portal snapped up by high speed service provider

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@Home, the high speed US Internet service provider, is to buy Excite, the world's second largest portal, for $6.7 billion, The Register can confirm. In a joint statement, the companies said their customers would get the most personalised, open Internet services available and at any speed they wanted. Although the deal still needs regulatory approval the tie-up appears to be a match made in cyberheaven. It's widely believed that one of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of the Net by consumers has been the sluggishness of Net access. While @Home has the infrastructure to overcome this, it doesn't have a sufficient profile or the content to attract new users. Excite does. The companies hope to accelerate the adoption of broadband technology by showing Excite's narrowband users the benefits of a fat pipe service. If it succeeds, it will give advertisers one of "the most powerful interactive marketing solutions available," said George Bell, CEO of Excite. Either way, the tie-up will give @Home access to millions of Net users and help the company market its cable television-based Internet access services to an even wider audience. By providing multimedia-enriched and compelling content, @Home hopes more and more people will adopt its broadband Net services over traditional copper wire links. The deal -- which is believed to be one of the largest Net mergers so far -- underscores the importance of content on the Net and highlights the ever-growing appetite Net users have for broadband applications. The final elements of the deal were brokered during the Martin Luther King Day holiday in the US catching many observers by surprise. Only last week @Home said that it had more than 330,000 cable modem subscribers across the US -- an increase of more than 50 per cent in just three months -- and a sevenfold increase on the year. In a bullish trading statement, the company said that page views of its @Home content had increased by almost 100 per cent in just three months. To view similar multimedia-rich content using a copper wire would simply drag phone connections down to a finger-drumming crawl, a spokesman said. ®

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