Prodigy buys stake in SonicNet

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Prodigy Services Co., White Plains, N.Y., acquired a stake in SonicNet, a multimedia music and youth culture service on the World Wide Web. The investment, whose price was undisclosed, is Prodigy's first as part of its Wildflower Partners program.

Under the agreement, which is not exclusive, the New York-based offices of SonicNet will create content exclusively for Prodigy members while maintaining regular programming on its Web site.

SonicNet has been active in music events nationwide, including the annual Collegefest concert and the Macintosh Music Festival which used the Web last June to chronicle a 400-band gathering across nightclubs in New York City.

"We like that Prodigy is moving towards Netscape," said SonicNet Creative Director Nicholas Butterworth. SonicNet is currently developing content and advertising to be announced in January using Sun Microsystems' Java software, Macromedia's Shockwave and other recent multimedia technologies.

Prodigy President Ed Bennett said his company chose the SoHo venture as its first Wildflower Partner because music bulletin boards were some of the most popular areas on the service and because SonicNet's content would appeal to Prodigy's demographic. At least 45% of the service's users are under 25 years old, he said.

The online services company is not alone in choosing a floral metaphor for an internal service providing "seed" money for content partnerships. America Online, Vienna, Va., began investing earlier this year in sites ranging from AstroNet to NetNoir under a program called Greenhouse.

The difference between Greenhouse and Wildflower Partners? "Wildflowers are already in the real world," Mr. Bennett said, taking a crack at his competitor. "They don't need to be in a greenhouse. They're robust already."

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