Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., taking a step toward creating what it calls an electronic newspaper, said Wednesday that it has agreed to acquire Delphi Internet Services, the fifth-largest on-line computer service in the United States.
The deal should help Murdoch to eventually produce electronic newspapers, magazines and books for personal computers users and cable TV subscribers. In recent years, he has made several investments in technology companies that will link parts of his media empire.
Delphi provides full access to the Internet, a network of computer networks that connects millions of users around the world. It is used most by scholars and technical professionals, but private businesses and individuals are increasingly tapping the rapidly expanding system.
Terms of the acquisition proposal were not disclosed. News Corp. owns the Fox Inc. film and TV studio in addition to newspapers, among them the Times of London and the New York Post. Like other major media companies, it is trying to capitalize on the convergence of computer, telephone and television technologies, which seem to be coming together to provide an array of information and services to households and businesses.
One of the major obstacles, however, has been developing a system that will allow most potential users still not familiar with computers to navigate the maze of computer networks and data banks accessible over such an information superhighway.
Delphi says it has already developed easy-to-use methods of access to the Internet and could design similar systems to help develop an electronic newspaper or magazine.
Murdoch, in a prepared statement, said the proposed Delphi acquisition would “provide a series of additional products and services, including an electronic newspaper unlike any other and an electronic version of TV Guide.”
Delphi, based in Cambridge, Mass., was founded in 1982 and has fewer than 100 employees. In addition to providing access to the Internet, it designs interfaces that allow computer users to interact with on-line data and video services. For example, it helped design the interface for parts of GTE’s Cerritos cable TV project.
Delphi says it is the only nationwide service that allows subscribers access to all of the Internet, including networks operated by institutions such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Library of Congress and the Harvard University library.
Delphi would not disclose how many subscribers it has. Prodigy and Compuserve each has about a million subscribers, and America On-Line has perhaps 250,000. The Genie service ranks fourth.