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Excite@Home's Got Game

There are many different strategies Internet service providers utilize to lure new customers to their fold. But top service providers know that content is king, and gaming enthusiasts are an easy mark for targeting high-speed Internet services.

In order to elevate its entertainment lineup and pickup new users, Excite@Home Thursday acquired leading online gaming firm pogo.com for an undisclosed amount of cash.

The deal puts one of the most popular (and stickiest) free gaming services at the core of Excite@Home's marketing strategy designed to lure narrowband users to its broadband services, and keep them there.

Excite@Home intends to leverage pogo.com's commanding position in the narrowband online gaming market to migrate new customers over to its set-top box platform for high-speed Internet access.

The pogo.com multi-user online gaming environment also becomes the crux of Excite@Home's broadband TV initiative, where consumers will be able to play online games as part of an advanced TV experience.

Under the terms of the agreement, Excite@Home will acquire the privately held pogo.com and operate it as a subsidiary. Meanwhile, pogo.com will continue to provide and distribute co-branded online gaming services to other companies.

Excite@Home already had a long-term co-branding content partnership with pogo.com when it took a 10 percent equity investment in the company. As part of today's deal, Excite@Home gains access to some of the top talent in the online gaming industry by adding pogo.com's team of more than 110 gamers to its payroll.

Excite@Home has been busy developing ties with other online firms to bring new users into the fold. Earlier this month it formed affiliations with Be Free, Inc. and Commission Junction to link wannabe high-speed users to Excite@Home's broadband services.

But Byron Smith, Excite@Home executive vice-president of consumer broadband services and chief marketing officer, said games are the key to attracting, acquiring and maintaining new customers.

"We believe games are already critical to the development of broadband," Smith said. "Online games are shaping up to be a 'killer app' for the set-top box market.

Erick Hachenburg, pogo.com president and chief executive officer, said the gaming firm expects to make great gains by teaming up with Excite@Home.

"Our acquisition by Excite@Home will enable us to quickly and fully realize our vision of 'anyone, anywhere, anytime' online game play," Hachenburg, said. "It provides us with the resources necessary to expand geographically beyond North America as well as onto nascent consumer platforms including broadband, set-top and wireless devices."

Nielsen Net Ratings consider pogo.com to be one of the "stickiest" sites on the Web, The average pogo.com user spends 84 minutes online each week per or nearly 45 minutes during each visit.

The pogo.com network attained 7.9 reach with just over 6 million unique visitors in June 2000, according to the latest Media Metrix report. The gaming firm also achieved a recent milestone by registering its 10 millionth member after being in service for two years.

The addition of pogo.com's broad appeal and stickiness figures provides a powerful addition to Excite@Home's entertainment lineup.

Excite@Home anticipates that the deal will raise its overall stickiness by 42 percent to achieve a 56-minute per visit per unique visitor viewing rate.

By acquiring pogo.com and integrating its family-friendly games throughout the Excite@Home network, the broadband firm is capable of taking a big step