Yahoo/BT marketing link-up echoes doomed US venture

The announcement last week that Yahoo! has agreed to co-badge BT’s Click+Internet access service may sound to many like a marriage made in heaven.

The UK’s leading Web destination coupled with the country’s dominant domestic telecoms provider, to promote the subscription free, penny-a-minute gateway to the Internet sounds like a mighty pairing.

But experience could yet prove the marketing alliance a rather less passionate marriage of convenience.

Yahoo!’s first attempt at promoting a co-branded Internet service provider with US telecoms operator MCI proved a short-lived affair. That deal, announced in March this year, featured similarly hyped language to last week’s Yahoo! Click announcement.

Fabiola Arredondo, Yahoo! Europe’s managing director, says the deal with BT, the first of Yahoo! Europe’s local ventures in the Internet access market, represented “a combination of ‘getting onto’ and ‘getting around’ the Net as a value for money offer [that] is a truly compelling consumer proposition”.

Compare that to Jeff Mallett, chief operating officer at Yahoo!, who in March declared that the $14.95 (9) a month unlimited access deal offered with MCI was “a complete solution” which offered users “an easy and rewarding way to explore the Internet from home or anywhere else”.

Yet by September, both sides in the US were announcing their divorce. The causes of the “no fault” divorce remain unclear. But neither MCI nor Cable & Wireless (which inherited MCI’s Internet interests following its takeover by WorldCom), opted to stand in Yahoo!’s way when it announced that new customers won over by the Yahoo! Online offer would instead be part of a joint venture instigated by MCI’s arch-rival AT&T.

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