The company's magazine unit, meanwhile, is finding its way onto the superhighway via a video news-on-demand service. All of Time Inc.'s core magazines will create branded services for the interactive news system.
Time Warner has reached agreements with 11 to 14 marketers that will each pay $200,000 to participate in the Full Service Network, an interactive cable system that goes live in April in Orlando.
"We have more people interested in being on right now than we have initial slots," said Curtis Viebranz, president of Time Inc. Multimedia. "Sold out is a good way to put it."
The list is known to include General Motors Corp., Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Corp. USA, McDonald's Corp. and Pizza Hut (AA, Nov. 15, et seq.). The U.S. Postal Service has agreed to sell stamps through the TV and deliver them to homes.
The two fast-food chains will offer on-screen menus and home delivery, while the automakers will participate in an Auto Mall, where consumers will be able to browse among brands, see video brochures and set up test drives at the touch of a button. The carmakers have agreed to have local dealers deliver vehicles to consumers' homes for test drives.
The $200,000 price tag includes access to research and participation in a pooled incentive fund to offer viewers free movies or discounts off their monthly cable bills if they agree to watch ads or receive unsolicited coupons over a set-top color printer being developed by Hewlett-Packard Co.
For many Time Inc. titles, the news-on-demand service, which will join the Full Service Network late this year, will be the first step into the new media age so actively championed by the parent company. Time Inc. last week tapped Ikonic Interactive, San Francisco, to design software and graphics for the news service.
"Every one of Time Inc.'s core magazines will be providing programming for this service," said Walter Isaacson, editor of new media for the publishing group. "We're also going to be open to looking for other companies that may want to test various offerings in the news realm."
Cable News Network is among the outside information providers expected to participate. Time Warner holds a 20.6% stake in CNN parent Turner Broadcasting System.
One Time Inc. staffer said the magazines are moving too cautiously. "News-on-demand is the only magazine thing going on," the staffer said. "Nobody wants to do anything daring right now."
But Mr. Isaacson said many editorial staffers are embracing new technologies.
"We have to move away from thinking of ourselves simply as producers of magazines and think of ourselves as producers of information that can be distributed in a variety of forms," he said.
Full Service Network advertisers will be able to participate in the news-on-demand service through sponsorships, interactive commercials and long-form ads.M