The relaunch -- which comes the same week Time Warner is slated to outline the future of its long-ailing unit -- is part of AOL's ongoing strategy to supplant dwindling subscription revenue with ad dollars related to online video and video search.
Mix of free and paid content
The heart of the new AOL Video portal is a programming guide with which users can amass free and download-to-own video from across broadcast and cable TV and the web. Free content, from "Wild America" nature shows to "National Lampoon," will be offered alongside $1.99 episodes of A&E Television Networks' "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and MTV Networks' "Chappelle's Show."
Also prominently featured is AOL's In2TV service, which launched March and carries Warner Bros. TV classics such as "Welcome Back Kotter" with ads from Intel, AT&T, and Hershey's, among other sponsors. And, along with other niche providers, Procter & Gamble Co. is sponsoring its own channel, P&G Classic Soaps, featuring full episodes from "Another World," "The Edge of Night" and other soaps.
AOL is using the relaunch as an opportunity to formally introduce its YouTube alternative, AOL UnCut. Quietly released in May, the social-networking community encourages members -- who must be at least 18 -- to upload videos up to five minutes in length, using their AOL or AIM instant-messaging screen names. Like other video-sharing services, the offerings can then be shared, searched and commented on.
Video search revenue stream
Additionally, with the relaunch AOL is attempting to secure its position as a leader in video search. The additional advertising revenue could be critical to AOL's future, as its subscription model appears doomed. "Video search is critical to AOL's future because it creates a whole new search revenue stream that they don't have to share with a partner like Google," explained Forrester analyst Charlene Li.
AOL Video was launched last summer to help users search and then play back AOL's licensed and originally produced videos from Time Warner, including TV programs and music videos, news clips from CNN and MSNBC, as well as video from content partners including HBO, New York Times Digital and Sony BMG Music Entertainment, among others.