Reports: News Corp in talks to buy Blinkx

Murdoch is intent on developing a Yahoo-sized web presence

Media giant News Corp is in talks to buy internet search startup Blinkx as a way to boost its internet presence, according to published reports.

News Corp is hoping to create a web portal to match that of Yahoo through a number of acquisitions, according to reports by the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

A Blinkx spokeswoman in the UK said the company couldn't comment at this time, while News Corp did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

News Corp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has made no secret of his company's desire to more fully establish itself on the internet. In a conference call last Wednesday to discuss the company's fourth quarter fiscal 2005 earnings, he said News Corp was "in very advanced negotiations to buy a controlling interest in what we think is a wonderful search engine".

Murdoch didn't provide any further details about the identity of the search engine. However, he did add on the call that he's willing to spend between US$1 billion and US$2 billion (NZ$1.4 billion–NZ$2.8 billion) to acquire web businesses through Fox Interactive Media (FIM), a new division News Corp set up last month. The division's mission is to provide consumers of Fox's content with a richer internet experience at the company's entertainment, news and sports websites. FIM is to manage the interactive assets of all Fox divisions including foxsports.com, foxnews.com and fox.com.

FIM has been busy already, announcing two pending News Corp purchases. It is to acquire Intermix Media, a company with a network of over 30 websites devoted to entertainment, gaming and social networking, for around US$580 million in cash, and Scout Media, the parent company of online sports network Scout.com, for US$60 million.

Blinkx provides search engine software and services for searching websites, including video and audio files, as well as the content of users' hard drives. It is viewed by industry analysts as an innovator in the search space, often coming out with features ahead of larger competitors such as Google and Yahoo.

The one-year-old San Francisco-based company is privately held. Blinkx already has a number of deals in place with media companies including tie-ups with BusinessWeek Online and The New York Times.

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