THIS WEEK: Branson aims to Net families

Richard Branson, who has already launched his brand into airlines, radio stations and cola, is now hoping Virgin can turn the Internet into a consumer-friendly medium.

Richard Branson, who has already launched his brand into airlines, radio

stations and cola, is now hoping Virgin can turn the Internet into a

consumer-friendly medium.



Virgin Net was launched this week in a push that will initially rely on

in-store retail promotion and public relations. It will be taking on the

likes of CompuServe and AOL as the ‘doorway’ through which users explore

the Internet.



Virgin Net, Virgin’s Internet service provider, claimed that the

‘Virginisation of the Net’ will take the Web into the domain of the

family and shake off its ‘nerdy’ image.



It is offering unlimited access for pounds 10 per month, with all calls

charged at local rate.



Martin Keogh, Virgin Net marketing director, said: ‘Ten pounds is a very

competitive price. We’re trying to open up the domestic market, and part

of what was holding it back before was the price.’



He said a press ad campaign had been created and was ready to run at any

time but he wanted to see what the response is like from its promotions

first.



The service will be fully live on November 28 when the software will be

distributed, in CD or floppy disk formats, through retail outlets

including Virgin Megastores and Virgin/Our Price stores.



Virgin Net is testing a home installation scheme for the service in

Bristol and Edinburgh which may extend nationally if successful.



It is also running a promotion with Megastores, in which customers

buying CD-ROM software will get a free three-month trial of the service.



As well as the pounds 10 monthly deal Virgin Net is offering five hours

online for pounds 6 per month, plus a usage fee of 2p per minute after

that.



Virgin Net is a joint venture between Virgin Communications and

CableTel.



See Profile, page 21



Virgin territory



* In the UK the number of households online is expected to rise to 4.3

million by 2000.



* CompuServe is the current market leader with 400,000 subscribers.

There are about 150 providers offering access.



* Virgin Net’s through-the -line agency is Impact FCA and advertising is

expected to appear next year.



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