AOL to launch ‘In2TV’ ad-supported online service featuring ‘vintage’ TV shows

“As major broadcast networks begin offering some of their hottest programs via video-on-demand, AOL and Warner Bros. have a new weapon of their own — ‘Welcome Back, Kotter.’ In the latest sign that the rules of television are being turned on their head, the two divisions of Time Warner Inc. have formed a partnership to offer ‘vintage’ shows, including ‘Kotter,’ ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Kung Fu,’ free online. The venture is believed to be the first time a major TV studio has made prime-time entertainment programs available over the Internet at no charge,” Matthew Karnitsching reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“Yet it’s not totally a free lunch. Unlike other recent on-demand offerings, which carry a fee but typically allow consumers to bypass advertising, the AOL-Warner Bros. service will include 15-second commercials that viewers can’t circumvent. AOL-Warner Bros. will keep control of the video feed and viewers won’t be allowed to record shows. Dubbed ‘In2TV,’ the service will start in January and initially include six channels, ranging from comedy to drama,” Karnitsching reports. “Beyond the ads, some analysts question how many people will watch entire TV shows on a computer screen — and whether the typically youthful online audience will be lured by decades-old fare.”

“In2TV plans to offer 300 episodes per month and about 100 shows in the first year. Warner Bros. has cleared 300 series, or about 14,000 individual episodes, for use on the service… In2TV will rely on video-streaming technology, which doesn’t require time-consuming downloads, to send the shows. The companies say they are using the most advanced technology available to prevent piracy, including a feature that allows them to pinpoint the homes using the service,” Karnitsching reports. “Most of the shows — roughly 300 in total — have been on the shelf for a while and aren’t earning much money. That makes it less risky for the studio to make them available than, say, ‘Friends,’ from which Warner Bros. reaps millions of dollars in syndication revenues a year. If successful, the venture may eventually include more newer programming, the company said.”

“Yet by focusing initially on older shows, In2TV is going after a segment now dominated by Viacom’s Nick at Nite and TV Land cable networks. Those channels draw large audiences and have been highly profitable,” Karnitsching reports. “Larry Jones, president of Nick at Nite and TV Land, said he’s not worried In2TV will erode the audience of his networks any more than the recent boom in classic TV shows on DVDs did. Though he says In2TV is an ‘interesting experiment,’ he added that his networks provide a valuable service by acting as filter. ‘We pick the best of the best from multiple studios,’ he said. ‘I don’t know if viewers are ready for so much choice. Ultimately what [In2TV] does is force viewers to be their own programmers.'”

Full article here.

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32 Comments

  1. Sounds like the TV companies are scrambling to keep the 800 pound gorilla out of their bedroom.

    They are certainly being more pro-active than the Music companies were but it remains to be seen if they can come up with a solution as simple and clean as Apple’s. The millions of iPods with video that are gonna be sold this Christmas will be a big factor too.

    I guess the TV execs have watched the “Think Different” commercial and took to heart the line “About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things.” Apple is shaking things up again.

  2. Apple’s offering current hit TV shows and the ability to watch, fast forward, and rewind them on the go without being connected to the internet and without having big brother looking over their shoulder.

    Or I could watch old shows that that were just collecting dust anyway while sitting only in one spot.

    That said, it still may find an audience.

  3. Streaming video blows. Even in this day of hyper-fast connections, it still blows. Fast-forward and reverse don’t work as well, if at all, and the video has a nasty tendency to freeze or stop playing altogether if the connection between here and there isn’t perfect every step of the way.

    Unless there’s a monumental improvement, I can’t ever see a streaming service beating a download service. Sure downloads are “time-consuming”, but it’s not like you can’t do something else while the download takes place.

  4. That said, it still may find an audience.

    I think the demand for old TV programming is so mlarge that nearly any venture will make money. The key to long term success will be in which service gets the model right for the greatest number of users.

    Frankly, I believe the people that really want to see old programming, will be more inclined to own it, rather than rent it, even if renting is less expensive.

  5. This is a great idea and not a real positive development for Apple and its pay per show. Unless Apple goes this route with an ad based model. (Which they should since Apple makes money off the hardware, not the shows…)

    This new service will work similar to MDN – MDN provides old news information that it collects and repeats, is free to us consumers and MDN gets rich through advertising on the repeated news webpages.

  6. Does this mean another proprietary video player of some sort to play their lame video stream?

    Will they play with some messed up customized version of RealPlayer (which has fowled up every computer I’ve ever installed it on)?

    There’s a reason Apple has not chosen streaming for their video service…. it sucks!

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