Overture Renews Freeserve Deal Temporarily

Paid-search provider Overture said Monday its deal with British Internet service provider (ISP) Freeserve has automatically renewed, giving it until February to strike a long-term deal and fend off another Google encroachment.

The automatic renewal will keep the same terms as the two-year deal Overture (then called GoTo) struck with Freeserve in October 2000. That deal expired at the end of November, but included a one-time, automatic two-month extension.

An Overture spokesman declined to elaborate on the company’s discussions with Freeserve over a long-term deal.

For Overture, Freeserve is the latest front in its ongoing battle to beat back the spirited challenge from Google to its supremacy in the paid listings market. Since launching its paid-listing service early this year, Google has swooped in to take high-profile Overture clients, such as EarthLink and AOL.

The extension gives Overture some breathing room to seal a long-term deal with Freeserve, which is the United Kindom’s largest ISP with 2.5 million subscribers. Overture archrival Google is also competing to provide paid listings for Freeserve.

With the domestic paid-listing market mostly spoken for, Overture and Google have increasingly turned their attention abroad.

Last month, Overture and Google fought to a draw in the contest to provide paid listings for Yahoo Japan, which decided to provide paid search results from both companies.

Overture has deep roots in Britain, opening an office in London over two years ago. The company boasts it reached 80 percent of UK Internet users through its partnership deals there, of which Freeserve is the largest. Overture also has deals with MSN’s local site and AOL Europe.

Overture sees its international operations, while still a small slice of its revenue, an engine for future growth. In September, the company launched French operations, which join its services in the UK and Germany. Overture said it reaches 73 percent of Internet users in Germany and 65 percent in France.

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