Overture, Microsoft Renew “Search Pane”, Site Deals

Overture will continue to provide paid search listings for the “Search Pane” on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer while adding new sites to its contract with MSN, through a series of agreements solidified this month.

The arrangement will see Overture serving the pay-per-click ad listings to the Search Pane, a feature in Internet Explorer browser that adds a search engine to the screen. By default, the search pane is set to display Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft’s MSN Search.

Pasadena, Calif.-based Overture’s results will appear only when MSN is the search provider in the panel.

Overture also renewed its agreement with MSN to provide listings through late 2004 to the portal’s U.S., Canada and U.K. sites. It will also add Germany and France to the mix, where the search provider recently opened regional offices. Previously, the site listings agreement had been set to expire in late 2003 after being renewed in February.

Additionally, the companies said they would launch a trial implementation of Web site and Search Pane results in Japan following Overture’s Japanese market launch, which is expected before the end of the year.

The contract extensions temporarily lay to rest questions about Overture’s relationship with MSN. The year-old Search Pane agreement between the two firms had been up for renewal at the end of June, but a decision was postponed until this month as last-minute discussions ensued. Now, that contract will run through December 2003.

“MSN has been strategically important to Overture and we are extremely pleased to extend our long-term agreement with them in the U.S. and internationally,” said Bill Demas, senior vice president and general manager of Overture’s affiliate business.

In June, Overture and MSN had said the contract negotiations had been prolonged to give the firms an opportunity to discuss a “longer-term” Search Pane contract. While that evidently didn’t happen, Overture does come away with expanded inventory on MSN’s U.S. and regional sites.

That’s perhaps more important for the paid listings provider, which is working to differentiate itself from the growing threat of Google with regional sales offices and language-specific search engines. But Google, which has offices in Mountain View, Calif., also is ramping up its overseas efforts by offering its paid listings in several European markets and Japan.

Overture’s efforts to move abroad also come as it’s lost several high-profile clients at home to Google, including AOL Time Warner and EarthLink .

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