Yahoo! cuts Softbank's ad sales role

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Yahoo! is ramping up its own ad sales force and will reduce the role of Softbank Interactive Marketing, the two companies announced late on Thursday. Softbank will remain exclusive sales representative for Yahoo! until yearend; after that point it will represent a yet-to-be-determined portion of the site.

The move is a setback for Softbank Interactive, which counts Yahoo! as one of its largest clients. The directory service accounts for 25% to 30% of the company's revenues, said CEO Andy Batkin. But he said the company expects to seek relationships with other search engines after its current exclusive contract expires at yearend.

"A number of [the search engines] have kept in contact with us," Mr. Batkin said. "We'll be aggressively discussing that issue with those candidates" after yearend. Exact terms of Softbank Interactive's new contract with Yahoo! are still being negotiated.

Yahoo! already maintains a small sales force; how many staffers it will hire is unclear. Yahoo! didn't return calls for comment.

Softbank Interactive has represented Yahoo! almost from the beginning of the site's commercial existence. It was a client of Interactive Marketing Inc.'s Interactive Media Sales and moved over to Softbank Interactive when that company was formed by the combination of Interactive Marketing Inc. and two other smaller Web rep firms.

The parent company Softbank is an investor in both Interactive Marketing Inc. and Yahoo!.

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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