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News Corp. Eyes Search Engine Blinkx

Times Staff Writer

News Corp. is in negotiations to buy Blinkx, a privately held Internet search company based in San Francisco, according to people close to the world’s fourth-largest media giant.

The prospective acquisition of Blinkx is part of an aggressive bid by News Corp. to take on such Internet powerhouses as Yahoo Inc. News Corp. is trying to build a rival portal by acquiring fast-growing Web businesses and by leveraging the sites of its in-house brands, including those of local Fox TV stations, the Fox TV network and cable channels such as Fox Sports and Fox News.

During News Corp.'s earnings announcement last week, Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said the company was prepared to spend as much as $2 billion on Internet acquisitions. He acknowledged that the company was in advanced negotiations to acquire a search engine, but did not disclose its name.

Some News Corp. sources said the talks weren’t quite as advanced as Murdoch suggested last week and could still break down.

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Murdoch predicted that News Corp.'s Internet business would account for “a major part of the company’s growth, profits and asset building over the next several years.” News Corp. insiders say Murdoch has become obsessed with the initiative, especially since attending an annual media industry retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho, last month, and even went shopping for office space in Los Angeles last week for the new group, Fox Interactive Media.

In the last month, Murdoch has agreed to spend more than $700 million on Internet acquisitions. Among them: the parent company of MySpace.com, a fast-growing “social networking” Internet site, and Scout Media Inc., a sports website.

Blinkx would provide search capacity for the Fox portal and could give News Corp. an edge in what could be the next big sensation on the Web: search engines for finding movies, TV episodes and news clips.

Blinkx already gets video clips from Fox News through a partnership and crawls the Web to find other video files, using speech-recognition technology to create a searchable index of what has been said.

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At the moment, it is considered the front-runner in the area of video searches.

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Times staff writer Chris Gaither in San Francisco contributed to this report.


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