Originally created 02/17/99

News network, health site aligning



ATLANTA -- CNN News Group, moving to expand its offerings to a health-hungry public, Tuesday formed a strategic alliance with an Internet-based healthcare information business called WebMD.

"There is virtually no topic today that has more interest than health news. Personal health is the hot topic," said Tom Johnson, chief of the CNN News Group.

The deal will include exchanges of online health information and joint development of interactive features, a three-year multimillion-dollar advertising buy on CNN networks by WebMD, and on-air and online promotion of WebMD by CNN.

For example, a CNN television medical news segment might refer viewers to CNN's own Web site and also to WebMD.

Jeffrey Arnold, founder and chief executive of Atlanta-based WebMD, said the link will enhance the credibility of his fast-growing business, which began five years ago as a telemedicine company but last year changed its name and began offering World Wide Web sites on physician and consumer health information.

CNN also is buying a stake in WebMD, which Arnold said recently filed to sell stock. Financial terms of Tuesday's deal weren't disclosed.

Arnold, a 29-year-old entrepreneur, has partnerships with about 30 other companies to provide what he calls "a one-stop solution site" that can be used for everything from insurance eligibility checks to medical education to ordering medical supplies.

"I think we're showing doctors that this is a tremendous timesaving tool," Arnold said, explaining that his WebMD Internet "portal" is meant to allow medical professionals to avoid multiple searches. "Doctors are pressed for time and they don't have time to go to each and every one of these sites."

The association with CNN will help reach more consumers and professionals, Arnold said, adding that professional subscribers will be able to access CNN Headline News at WebMD's "physicians' lounge."

"It's going to represent a major new step for us both in our Internet services and our television services," said Johnson, pledging that CNN and WebMD will combine to present "trusted information that doctors can rely on and consumers can rely on."

CNN News Group, owned by Time Warner unit TBS, includes Cable News Network and five other cable and satellite TV networks, plus an array of related news and information services, including CNN Interactive.