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Selling a good name: Enter new .tv domain

Clear Channel also in game with .cc Web-site monikers 7/02/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Broadcasters and other media companies worried that all the good names have been taken have a new source of Web-site names: a domain called .tv.

So far, thousands have signed on, although the broadcast networks are said to be lagging behind. Paxson Communications Corp. has so much faith in the future of the latest Internet twist that it is said to be forgoing the by-now-traditional .com domain altogether.

The .tv domain is being sold by .TV Corp. International, which is painting itself as the obvious choice for broadcasters' Web sites. After all, says company CEO Lou Kerner, " 'TV'is the most recognized two-letter symbol on the planet." (A domain is represented by the period and extension attached to the Web-site name; for example, .com directs users to broadcastingcable.com.)

.TV, based in Pasadena, Calif., is backed by Internet-business "incubator" Idealab. The domain name originated as the Internet country code of Tuvalu, an island of about 11,000 inhabitants located halfway between Hawaii and Australia. .TV will pay Tuvalu $50 million over the next 10 years for the rights to use the name.

That may sound like a lot, but the company has already taken in enough to cover the entire contract-and more. Though declining to divulge specifics, Kerner says, "We would never have to sell another domain name to be a highly profitable company."

Radio and TV broadcaster Clear Channel Communications Inc. owns a somewhat less intuitive domain, .cc, which it is marketing with SamsDirect Internet, a division of David Sams Industries Inc., a marketing and TV-production company.

"[The name] .cc doesn't mean anything," Kerner says. Clear Channel apparently agrees. The fact that the domain name is the same as two of the company's initials is "merely a coincidence," and the venture is a minor part of the company's business, Clear Channel CFO Randall Mays says. The new .cc domain is registered to the Cocos Islands, population 655, located some 800 miles southwest of Singapore. Neither Beverly Hills, Calif.-based SamsDirect nor San Antonio-based Clear Channel will detail the deal with the Cocos Islands-or with each other-but Mays says, "Every time they sell a domain name, we make money."

Clear Channel's TV and radio stations get the domain name free and promote the domain on the air. "They're the world's largest bullhorn," Chairman David Sams says of the world's largest radio company. Clear Channel receives an undisclosed share of the fee paid for each name registered.

SamsDirect has sold more than 100,000 .cc domain names since February at $100 a pop (the registration is good for two years). Sams insists that the domain, which is being sold at www.spot.cc, is "extremely memorable [and] brings new significance to the initials." Unlike .TV Corp., SamsDirect concentrates on marketing to families, individuals and hobbyists, Sams says. The other 25% of its business is with major firms protecting their .com brand, including Coca-Cola and Nike.

.TV Corp. is currently giving its domain to broadcasters who pledge to convert their sites from the .com domain to .tv domain by the end of the year. Among those that have taken the company up on the offer, as of last Thursday, is Paxson. Its stations' Web sites can attach themselves to the .tv domain in exchange for dropping the .com domain and promoting .tv on the air.

Interestingly, it was Sams who disclosed the Paxson deal. He says .TV Corp. has hired him to market the .tv domain to the nation's non-Clear Channel TV stations. He plans to go after the CBS group next. He is being paid in warrants in .TV Corp., which Kerner says is likely to go public shortly.

.TV Corp., which opened its Web site for business on May 15 (at www.tv, natch), already has "tens of thousands" of names registered, Kerner says. Registrations are coming in at the rate of more than 1,000 a day. The biggest category of seekers is broadcast/entertainment companies, followed by members of the real-estate business.

Among the broadcasters that the .tv domain claims so far are MGM Inc., Sony Pictures Entertainment, Pegasus Communications, KNBC(TV) Los Angeles and BBC UK. .TV Corp. is in negotiations with "major global personalities" and is close to a deal with a major sports league, Kerner says.

One executive with a major broadcast group says his company's brand is strong enough to stay with the .com domain. "I think people are pretty comfortable with .com," he says. He has never heard of .tv.

But .TV Corp. is working with some well-known broadcasters to try to get the word out. Members of its board of advisers include former Universal Studios and Viacom chief Frank Biondi, former CBS President Peter Lund and former E! Entertainment Television Network President Lee Masters. (All three are now involved in the Internet world.)

The most sought-after words are being auctioned off. .TV uses proprietary software to determine the value of a word (details are confidential). Bidding for the most valuable-business, news and sports, all of which were still available last Thursday-starts at $1,000,000 each, one .TV executive says.

Bidding generally progresses in $1,000 increments, depending on the value of the word. An auction lasts five business days. The highest price recorded so far was $100,000 for China.tv, bought by China's second-largest Internet service provider, and for free.tv, bought by a private entrepreneur, according to Kerner. The winners must pay that amount each year, plus a 5% annual increase. The company says people will accept the high prices and the annual increases because a strong Internet brand is nearly priceless.

Some "non-generic" words, including combinations of words, are available for a mere $100.

Among the 1,000 or so "live" .tv sites is Ibidlive.tv. The Los Angeles company, funded by European auctioneer QXL.com, is testing its TV/online-auction concept on ABC affiliate KEYT-TV Santa Barbara, Calif. During a show that airs live at 7 p.m. Saturdays, bids are taken over the telephone and by Internet.

"We believe that [.tv]'s the future," Ibidlive.tv CEO Rolfe Auerbach says. He has so much faith, in fact, that the company has shut down its ibidlive.com Web site in the U.S. and will also close the European .com domain site.

Sams agrees with those who complain that there are no "good .com" names left to buy. Others also agree. "We're one of the few Internet companies that from day one was profitable," Sams boasts.

Some of the profitability stems from the fact that SamsDirect, jointly owned by Sams and his wife, Renee, has bought hundreds of .cc names itself at $100 each and is reselling them for much more.


THE PRICE OF A NAME/ Top successful bids for .tv domain*

China.tv $100,000

Free.tv

$100,000

World.tv

$51,000

Realestate.tv

$50,000

Europe.tv

$33,000

Arts.tv

$30,000

Asia.tv

$30,000

3d.tv

$30,000

mobile.tv

$30,000

football.tv

$30,000

*(to be paid yearly with annual 5% increases)

Source: .TV Corp. International

Top asking prices for .cc domain

Women.cc

$1.5 million

Vacation.cc

$350,000

Cheaphotels.cc

300,000

Fitness.cc

$250,000

ASAP.cc

$150,000

Luggage.cc

$150,000

Motels.cc

$150,000

Realestateloans.cc

$100,000

Glamourous.cc

$5,000

Gals.cc

Make offer

Source: Greatdomains.com
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