Netscape 6 Sets its Sights on Microsoft with Marketing Deals

When Netscape Communications launched the latest version of its Netscape browser earlier this week, executives at the Mountain View, Calif. company and its parent, America Online, knew it had its work cut out for it.

Not only has rival Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser (now MSN Explorer) established a dominant market share in the years since Netscape debuted its last major version, Microsoft actually has a longstanding distribution agreement with AOL to include Explorer with the service’s software.

But beginning this week, Netscape is hoping to strike back. A contest, the “Netscape 6stakes” promotion, is aimed at encouraging consumers to download Netscape 6 or order a CD with the browser.

Travelocity.com and Time Inc. Online are co-sponsoring the promotion, in which more than 1,000 prizes will be awarded, including a $100,000 grand prize. Participants also can win six-day vacations to Hawaii, the Caribbean and golf resorts, or six weeks of flowers, six magazine subscriptions, and six music CDs.

Netscape will also run banner ads on several business and technology Web sites, and a radio campaign in key markets. Print ads will run in select Time magazines and several publications from hobby magazine publisher Primedia.

Netscape did not disclose the amount of the media spend.

Netscape is also aiming to gain support abroad for its new browser. The company simultaneously launched Netscape 6 in English, Japanese, French and German-language versions. In partnership with Sun Microsystems, Netscape will deliver Netscape 6 in Italian, Swedish, Spanish, Chinese and Korean in coming weeks. Netscape includes region-specific features and services with the international versions, including a built-in list of regional links for each country.

In addition to CD distribution within several Time business, news and lifestyle magazines, Netscape inked distribution agreements with several ISPs and computer manufacturers. EarthLink and Sympatico-Lycos will incorporate Netscape 6 in their software, Covad Communications will include the browser as part of it its Virtual Broadband Service Provider software, and Fujitsu PC Corporation will pre-install the browser on its 2001 line of notebooks.

Netscape is also reprising its affiliate distribution program, which enables partners to distribute customized, co-branded versions of the browser for free. Netscape counts about 95 thousand companies in the program.

Despite an uphill battle, Netscape execs are confident about the new browser’s success, and said the campaign will leverage users’ need for an alternative to Explorer.

“The one thing we hear over and over from Internet users is that they want real choice,” said Jim Martin, senior vice president and general manager at Netscape. “They don’t want to be limited to just one browser.”

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