IAR Bits and Bytes

Be Free Expands Acclaim

Affiliate marketing technology player Be Free said its new Acclaim program has nearly tripled in size since its inception six months ago.

The program, designed to highlight affiliate-friendly merchant partners, has attracted 44 advertisers, Marlborough, Mass.-based Be Free said.

The program uses a special symbol to identify merchants that provide timely and accurate reporting, communications, support and payments to affiliates.

While not begun in response to any specific issue, Be Free started its Acclaim program amid growing, industry-wide concern over the number of merchants believed to be abusing their affiliates through tardy payment or poor support. (Merchants that behave poorly also pose a threat to networks and technology providers by taxing their servers without paying their bills.)

So far, the effort has been paying off for Be Free, according to executives.

“All of our customers are striving to be ‘Acclaimed’ and new merchants are making program enhancements and meeting the criteria to receive an ‘Acclamation Point’ each month,” said Sam Gerace, founder and chief technology officer at Be Free. “In order to meet the Acclaim criteria, one out of every three customers who paid affiliates quarterly, has now switched to monthly payment cycles. And, the number of commission payments that merchants send out on-time to their affiliates has increased more than 200 percent since the program launch.”

“Be Free’s top priority is to enhance the experience of the millions of affiliate partners who drive billions of impressions through Be Free marketing programs each month,” Gerace added. “The Acclaim Program is one of many new initiatives in our plan that will make it easier for affiliate partners to manage their relationships with Be Free’s merchants. We’re pleased to see such great acceptance and success from this initial step toward partner success.”

CMGI, Engage Face Lawsuit

CMGI and its subsidiary Engage have been sued for alleged breach of fiduciary responsibility. Engage’s directors were also named as defendants.

At issue are four of the six proposals up for votes at Engage’s annual shareholders’ meeting. Among them are Engage’s planned reverse stock split and the issuance of shares to CMGI upon conversion of promissory notes.

The unidentified plaintiffs are seeking a court order block the moves. CMGI, an Internet investor, and Engage, a maker of advertising and marketing software, said the complaint is without merit. Both companies are based in Andover, Mass.

“CMGI has been a consistent supporter of Engage, both operationally and financially, and we will vigorously defend against this case,” CMGI’s CFO and CEO-elect, George McMillan, said in a statement.

McMillan, who has only been with CMGI seven month, has been tapped to succeed David Wetherell as chief of the one-time high-flying company, effective March 31.

Also Friday, the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a request by the plaintiff to schedule a preliminary injunction hearing, and denied a request to allow expedited discovery in the lawsuit prior to Engage’s annual meeting of stockholders.

Engage has rescheduled its annual meeting to March 29, in order to inform stockholders of the suit. Shares of CMGI were down 0.01, or 1 percent, to 1.46. ENGA was off 0.035, or 10 percent, to 0.31.

iTV Player PVI Acquires SciDel

Princeton Video Image has signed an agreement to acquire the assets of SciDel Technologies, an Israeli firm specializing in inserting so-called “virtual ads” into live and taped televised sporting events.

Lawrenceville, N.J.-based PVI — best known as the firm behind Fox Sports’ “first down line” during NFL games — said the acquisition of Tel Aviv-based SciDel would not only boost its product offerings, but also expand its marketing and sales reach to Europe. The smaller firm has broadcast partnerships with the English Premier League, Italian Series A and the Spanish Football league.

“PVI is already extremely well positioned in the sports advertising arena, and with the integration of SciDel’s world-class technology solutions and research staff in Israel, we will develop a virtual advertising powerhouse,” said Roberto Sonabend, PVI’s co-CEO. “The integration of SciDel is another way we will provide exceptional service to the advertising and broadcasting industries,” added David Sitt, PVI’s co-CEO.

In August, PVI signed an interactive television deal with Venice, Calif.-based iTV player Spiderdance. That deal saw PVI jointly marketing its products alongside those of Spiderdance, which allows Internet users to interact with TV broadcasts using an Internet-connected PC.

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