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Britannica.com Penetrating Israel's Education Markets

Britannica.com, the digital sister company of Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., recently announced two separate agreements which indicate new interests in the Israeli market. The first is the completion of Britannica.com's acquisition of a number of divisions the Center for Educational Technology (CET), an Israeli pioneer of educational software. The deal gives Britannica.com exclusive access to CET's extensive software library, along with proprietary use of all future software and technology developments. They plan to distribute select CD-ROM and DVD titles from CET in addition to their existing multimedia software collection.

Britannica.com spokesperson Rebecca Theim believes the acquisition complements Britannica.com's business strategy. "We are one of the few Internet sites with multiple revenue streams," she said. "Besides the encyclopedia, we have CD sales, advertisements and sponsorships, and we syndicate our content to other sites. CETs software is another addition to our revenue stream."

The second announcement is Bezeq Telecommunications' intention to invest $4 million in a new subsidiary, Britannica Learning Channels Israel (BLC) in exchange for an equity stake in the subsidiary. BLC will build educational web sites targeted at Israeli students K-12, parents, and teachers. The sites are to be licensed to educational institutions as supplements to the classroom.

Britannica.com expects to have a beta version available in April, with the full launch coinciding with a major educational conference in June.

Bezeq's interest in the venture is creating widespread demand for the broadband Internet access they provide. The investment would give BLC a post-money valuation of $9 million.

Encyclopedia Britannica is the 232-year-old publisher of the well-known encyclopedia by the same name. Their site, launched in October 1999, was instantly received, reaching 1.5 million unique viewers in six months. Most often used as a research tool, the site's database includes 44 million encyclopedia entries, 150 magazines, and a wide assortment of books and handpicked web sites.

Theim said the web site will undergo a substantial redesign next month, offering improved search capabilities and enhanced audio and video results.

Britannica.com has 400 employees worldwide; the company was unable to say how many in Israel. Their portfolio of partners includes Merriam-Webster, Barnesandnoble.com, Akamai Technologies, Newsweek, the Washington Post, Excalibur, and Classroom Connect.