UK television groups, Carlton Communications and Granada, are to invest £40 million in a UK version of Ask Jeeves, the popular US search engine.
The two are each investing £20 million in cash and advertising in a joint venture with Ask Jeeves Inc, the Nasdaq-listed US parent company which uses the butler character, Jeeves, created by English novelist PG Wodehouse, to front its service.
The UK version is due to launch early next year. Uniquely among search engines, Ask Jeeves allows users to search the web by asking questions in plain English. For example, users searching for information on the Mars Lander can simply type in "What is the Mars Lander?".
The US version is one of the most popular search engines on the web and, according to Media Metrix, Ask Jeeves recorded 4.66 million unique visitors in October.
The US site already attracts as many as 650,000 UK visitors every month. The UK site will hope to attract these users and more with UK-specific content.
The joint venture has been announced despite Carlton's proposed £8 billion merger with United News & Media, underscoring the continued co-operation between the two companies. The two are also equal shareholders in ONdigital, the digital terrestrial television broadcaster.