Report: Overture Wrests Freeserve Deal From Google

Overture Services has landed the Web search contract for Freeserve, the United Kingdom’s largest Internet service provider, according to published reports in the U.K.

For the Pasadena, Calif., firm, the deal represents a victory over its larger rival Google (which previous handled Freeserve’s Web search) and helps validate the acquisitions of a FAST Search and Transfer unit and AltaVista. Those buys cost Overture $210 million in cash and stock.

It also continues the company’s recent momentum. Earlier this week, Overture stregthened ties with Microsoft’s MSN portal by extending a paid listing pact for browser search in six countries and Web search in Italy through 2004.

Previously, Freeserve had used Overture for paid listing and Google for Web search. But the good working relationship with Overture, combined with its acquitision-enhanced Web search technology, apparently convinced the ISP to deal with one search provider.

Freeserve, which provides Internet access, e-mail, personal Web pages, U.K.-focused content and e-commerce boasts nearly 2.5 million active accounts and more than 5 million unique users per month.

Spokesmen for Overture and Freeserve were not immediately available for comment.

A formal announcement of the deal could come as soon as next week and could include other properties of Freeserve’s parent company, Wannadoo Group, which includes ISPs in France, Spain, the Netherlands and Morocco.

Overture CEO Ted Meisel has stressed that the company’s international expansion is key to its future growth and revenue diversity. The company has won a number of deals abroad (most in the paid search category) this year, including a deeper relationship with AOL Europe.

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