AOL UK, Kingfisher in Joint Marketing, Distribution Deal

[London, ENGLAND] AOL UK and European retail group Kingfisher
announced Thursday a joint marketing and distribution agreement
that will put AOL UK software into 2,061 Comet, B&Q, Woolworth’s
and Superdrug stores.

AOL UK is known for its aggressive marketing, but its latest
deal is one of the biggest. Specially co-branded CDs for its
flat rate, unmetered access Internet service will go into
795 Woolworth’s, 705 Superdrug and 260 Comet stores from late
December, and into 301 B&Q stores from early February 2001.

In return for distribution, AOL UK is making B&Q its key
online shopping partner across AOL and CompuServe
subscription services and on the Web-based Netscape Online.

Ironically, unmetered access in the U.K. is proving to be a
great success — at exactly the same moment in history as the
prices of Internet stocks are falling relentlessly in the markets.
User enthusiasm and investor confidence have never been more at
odds with each other.

AOL does not issue an exact breakdown of its figures country-by-country,
but across Europe its multiple brands now serve more than 5.4
million households.

Karen Thomson, AOL UK managing director, said that the retail
agreement with Kingfisher would build on what she called “AOL UK’s
extraordinary momentum of recent months,” enabling it to penetrate
even more deeply into the U.K. mass market.

“Our AOL FLAT RATE unmetered price plan is proving to be the most
popular in our history, powering AOL UK beyond the million-member
mark and to record usage levels,” said Thomson.

Thomson claimed that AOL’s members are making the service a central
part of their daily lives, putting the whole family online now
they are freed from minute-by-minute phone charges.

The two partners to the new agreement have not published the fine
print, but there is clearly some scope for conflict as Kingfisher
is also a strategic investor in Libertysurf, the second largest
ISP in France.

Kingfisher has over 2,900 stores in 17 countries, mostly in Europe
but extending also to China, Brazil, Canada and Turkey. One of
its newest projects is e-Kingfisher, an e-commerce brand that aims
to offer consumers “the best value, service and choice wherever and
whenever they want.”

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