AOL and Warner Brothers' announcement that they have teamed to deliver on-demand TV programming, albeit all older shows, starting in early 2006 through their In2TV broadband network is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Internet service provider and TV and movie company intend to relegate reruns back to their traditional space as they add newer TV content later in 2006, and AOL's road map for the platform includes movies at an as yet unspecified future date, said Fred McIntyre, AOL video VP. In2TV is free to anyone with a broadband connection via AOL.com.
“We are opening a new window of distribution,” McIntyre said.
With In2TV, AOL is looking to establish an audience for streaming TV through the classic shows and then progress to current programming. While the initial content is ad supported, any new shows will likely carry a pay-per-viewing fee, McIntyre said. This is necessary because the studios supplying the programming are more comfortable with a business model that directly pays them a license fee.
Tying movies into the system is a much more difficult subject.
“Movies will happen,” McIntyre said, “but it will take longer.”
The movie distribution market is segmented into so many pieces, first run, pay-per-view, cable and video-on-demand, that it will take some time for the Internet to find its place in that mix, he said, adding that some experiments are being conducted by other companies at this time.
The collaboration between the two Time Warner divisions will allow viewers to stream on-demand 30-minute episodes of such TV classics as “F-Troop”, “Growing Pains” and “Kung Fu”. Each will contain about two minutes of commercials, compared to the eight minutes inserted into standard TV shows. The programming will be offered in an AOL proprietary format called AOL Hi-Q, which customers will download as a plug-in. It supplies encryption and licensing for the show, while Windows Media handles the compression and playback.
The In2TV programming will be divided into six channels, LOL, Dramarama, Toontopia, Heroes and Horrors, Rush and Vintage. In addition to the shows AOL is planning a series of interactive features such as “Betcha Don't Know” a TV trivia game and “Where Are They Now?”
The content will stream at 2MBps and the show will cache onto the computer's hard drive, but will not be stored for future use as with a DVR, McIntyre said. He described the picture quality as good enough to view on a full-sized TV so anyone with a Media Center PC or the capability to port computer content to their television can view the old shows in all their glory.
The In2TV service announcement comes on the heels of similar announcements from Yahoo! and Tivo, Apple, NBC and CBS. (See www.TWICE.com for details.)