Benchmark Capital, the venture capital fund that backs Irish pay-TV group Setanta, has joined the race to find the next MySpace.com by making a $15m (Â£8m) investment in Bebo, the British online networking site.
Online networking businesses, where young people post blogs, set up home pages and meet the like-minded, are attracting serious investors and established media companies. News Corporation saw enough potential in the business model to acquire MySpace.com for $580m last year. Community sites, which tend to attract older audiences, have also become targets, with US media group Viacom buying iVillage for $600m. In Britain, ITV acknowledged the movement of audience eyes from TV screen to PC monitor by acquiring Friends Reunited for Â£170m.