News Corp buys U.K. Web site ad firm

April 9, 2008: 7:51 AM ET

By John Simons

In a move that should help News Corp.'s efforts to optimize and sell online advertising across its global network of Web sites, the media giant announced Tuesday that it has acquired a majority stake in Utarget, a U.K.-based company that offers advertisers and Web sites technology and ad sales services.

Utarget has a network of more than 630 client Web sites, where the company helps advertisers place commercial video clips. Based in London, Utarget focuses on Europe Web sites, but generates the majority of its revenues in the U.K. The News Corp. unit that orchestrated the acquisition, .Fox Networks, is an advertising placement firm that helps advertisers position their come-ons on News Corp.'s Web sites in more than 20 countries, including the U.S. For the time being, Utarget will continue to concentrate on opportunities outside of the U.S.

News Corp.'s investment comes at a time when advertisers are flocking to the Web in search of better returns on their ad spending. At the same time, an increasing number of consumers are viewing video content on the Web, the kind of content Utarget seeks to adorn with ads.

With its undisclosed investment in Utarget, says Hernan Lopez, president of .Fox Networks, "we are internationalizing ad sales opportunities." Lopez explains that Utarget can, for instance, help a Web site based in Spain sell ad space to advertisers in Argentina or Mexico, where they might have a large number of viewers, but no salesforce to sell ads. Utarget can also, then, offer its technology to help advertisers create targeted advertisements.

Lopez says the .Fox Network is in preliminary talks with News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media division to use Utarget's services to facilitate ad sales on News Corp.'s U.S.-based Web sites. In recent weeks, reports surfaced that the Fox Interactive division, whose crown jewel is MySpace, is likely to miss its 2008 revenue target of $1 billion. That news prompted the company to reorganize the division last week.

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