RealTime IT News IPO Turns Heads On Wall Street

There's a catfight brewing in the Internet stocks world.

It pits former IPO star iVillage (IVIL) against Networks, which began trading Friday. Offering 3.75 million shares at $10 each, saw its stock surge to 23 3/8 in early trading. The company's Nasdaq ticker is (WOMN), and lead underwriter is Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

The stakes in the battle are supremacy in the online battle to attract women Web users, prized as a growing and highly coveted (read: they spend a lot) demographic.

There are other contenders, such as Oxygen Media and the Lifetime television network, which is aggressively growing its 'Net presence. But the real contest comes down to iVillage and Networks, which is the result of a merger between and Hearst's

Both iVillage and Networks offer channel-based content and community features targeted toward women in the 25- to-49-year-old demographic. Channels are divided into broad topics such as Career, Family, Fitness, Money, Horoscopes, etc.

In terms of audience and revenue, iVillage currently has the upper hand. Media Metrix (MMXI) numbers from August show that attracted 5 million visitors, compared to 4.6 million for That's close enough to be competitive, but iVillage has increased its lead since April, gaining 916,000 unique monthly visitors to's 741,000.

iVillage has $14.6 million through the first two quarters of this year, well ahead of Networks' $9.4 million. Both have net losses through Q2, with iVillage at $34.7 million and at $30.4 million.

Much of's red ink can be attributed to its struggle to close the mindshare gap. The company spent $17.3 million on sales and advertising in the first two quarters alone. also has lined up partnerships and strategic agreements with a number of prominent Internet players, including America Online Inc. (AOL), Infoseek (SEEK), Lycos Inc. (LCOS) and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO).

Despite its revenue and eyeball lead, iVillage is in a position to be legitimately challenged. After one of the year's most notable IPOs -- gaining 234% to close at $80.13 in its March debut - the company is no longer a market heartthrob. Its stock hit $119 7/8 in April and plummeted through mid-June, trading as low as $25 =. It has been below $40 for the past six weeks, trading Friday afternoon at $30 >. With a market cap of $807 million, iVillage is no industry giant.

Now has an opportunity to become the hot Internet stock in its gender sector.

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