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October 12, 1999

iWon: the More You Click, the More Chances to Win

By CBR Staff Writer

Appealing to the basest of instincts has always played well on the web, and the primal longing for cash rewards is the driving force beyond, which has just launched with a flurry of publicity, centered mainly around the huge amount of cash the company itself acquired from CBS Inc. iWon is a portal with all the usual features, but with each click of the mouse, visitors increase their odds of winning a daily prize of $10,000. There is also a monthly prize if $1m and a $10m prize on US tax day next year (April 17 is the next deadline for US residents to file their tax returns.)

The company was formed back in March and one month later the two founders had secured $100m from CBS, some on cash and some in media allocation. For example, the draws for the monthly and annual sweepstakes draws will be broadcast across the US in prime time on CBS, which is part of its investment in the company.

With that investment, CBS gets a majority stake, but co-founder and co-CEO Jonas Steinman, says the company is shortly to announce funding from venture capitalists including Chase Capital Partners that will likely to reduce that stake to a minority. Steinman was formerly a general partner at Chase Capital and thought up the idea over lunch with Bill Daugherty, previously senior VP business development at the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The CBS money came money came via iWon chairman Neil Austrian, who will stay on at his day job and president and COO of the National Football League (NFL) and a friend of Daugherty. Mel Karmazin and Fred Reynolds, CBS’ CEO and CFO respectively also sit on the company’s board. Last month CBS agreed to be acquired by Viacom Group Inc in a deal worth about $37bn.

Yesterday the company announced that it will spend $40m on TV and radio advertising between now and April 17, which combines some of the CBS cash and the ad allocation time. Steinman says the plan is that by the end of this year, 80% of the US population will have seen or heard at least six iWon slots on radio and TV. The slots started running earlier this week with the tagline, Why wouldn’t you? Steinman says that theme reflects the fact that iWon is a quality portal as well as being a chance to win.

iWon has licensed content from the likes of CBS News and its Marketwatch and Sportsline affiliates and other tools from the likes of, Inktomi Inc,, and, among others. It used Sapient Corp for much of the integration. Steinman says the aim was give the site a clean look and feel to make it simple to use and familiar, however a lot of the news is still a collection of obscure links and company websites.

Users get points for each part of the site they visit, for example they get seven points for clicking on CBS News, but only one or two points for some of the lesser news offerings. Steinman says the points are based upon popularity, but acknowledges that there may be some economic rationale for the company behind some of the ratings. Users can gather up to 100 points in one day, which are reset every 24 hours. They can also build up to a maximum of 100 points for the monthly and annual draws too as Steinman says the company has to put a cap on it for legal reasons. However, clicks only count for the daily draw between 5:00am and 5:00pm eastern time.

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