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AOL, TW Sibling Eye Celeb Net

Jun 13, 2005  •  Post A Comment

America Online is working with Time Warner sibling Telepictures on a broadband channel devoted to entertainment and celebrity. The channel is one of several being planned by AOL as it tries to cash in on the growth of broadband by expanding its video presence on the open Internet instead of trying to provide content only for its monthly subscribers.

One source said the entertainment channel would carry the “Extra” brand from Telepictures’ syndicated show business newsmagazine, but Kevin Conroy, executive VP and chief operating officer for AOL Media Networks, declined to comment. An AOL spokesperson said the channel would not use the “Extra” moniker.

A Telepictures spokesperson confirmed the two companies are discussing the project. As previously reported, AOL also is in negotiations with theater and arena owner Philip Anschutz’s AEG to be partners in a channel that will focus on live entertainment from concert venues and comedy clubs (TelevisionWeek, May 30).

AOL is also launching AOL Music and a channel that will be dedicated to Bob Geldof’s upcoming Live 8 benefit concerts. AOL is looking for a television partner to broadcast some of the performances, but all of the event will be webcast live on AOL and will also be available on-demand on AOL Music.

Kevin Conroy, executive VP and chief operating officer for AOL Media Networks, said the celebrity channel is “one of a number of different channels that would be interesting in a programming lineup for consumers to enjoy as a video-on-demand and Internet channel.

The new business model for broadband media rests on advertising support, rather than subscriptions. “Video advertising is a very strong, growing segment of the overall Internet advertising market,” Mr. Conroy said.

AOL plans to stream some original content it will develop, along with promotional video and licensed programming. “The majority of what we’re doing is partnering with the content industry to provide new distribution for existing programming as well as new distribution for existing branded networks and creating new nonlinear digital networks,” he said.

At the same time AOL is developing channels it will let Web users find video content through its Singingfish search engine.

“To our knowledge there isn’t a single destination on the Internet that presents this kind of video experience across this much breadth of content for a user, and that combines programming together with everything that’s searchable,” Mr. Conroy said.

Mr. Conroy said the celebrity channel is “one of a number of different channels that we think would be interesting in a programming lineup for consumers to enjoy as a video-on-demand Internet channel.” He said AOL is “working closely with another division of Time Warner, Telepictures, to develop a new kind of on-demand celebrity channel.” He declined to elaborate on the future Live entertainment channel, saying that “deals are not done.” He also declined to talk about an anticipated channel dealing with sports.

AOL is expecting its push into video to get a boost from the Live 8 concerts.

“We see it as a wonderful opportunity to really associate with what could be the largest streamed event ever on the Internet and to have that be an opportunity to introduce people to AOLMusic.com and AOL.com,” Mr. Conroy said.

AOL is competing with Internet rivals Google and Yahoo! to become a leader in the broadband video space.

AOL said it is reaching out into the Hollywood community and has already made a number of deals to secure licenses to stream programming found via searches.

Unlike Yahoo!, Mr. Conroy said, “We have agreements with all the major parties. In the area of video search it’s critical that you have agreements because you have to have agreements to get the meta data that you need to build the database so you can deliver a high-quality video search result.”

Yahoo! had to remove links to some network television shows from its Web site because it never obtained rights to those programs.

Mr. Conroy sees AOL’s Internet video portal as a way to give new life to older programs. He said the debate over streaming current programming “misses all of the value in catalog television programming that has been through windows of exploitation and is seeking a new window.”

He said old shows could be moneymakers on the Internet. “If we could have a fraction of the audience watching the show on the Internet on-demand that was watching it when it went off air because it didn’t support the traditional television economic, that would be great, he said. “I think there’s a real opportunity for catalog television programming to be given a new window of consumption in an advertising supporting model to be enjoyed and viewed on-demand over the Internet,” Mr. Conroy said.