|Dollars in millions|
|Financial results (NYSE: AOL)||2009||2008||% chg|
|Net U.S. media revenue*||$2,379||$3,060||-22.2|
|Worldwide corporate revenue||$3,257||$4,166||-21.8|
|Net U.S. revenue by medium*||2009||2008||% chg|
|Dial-up internet service||$1,389||$1,929||-28.0|
AOL is an internet media company and provider of internet dial-up access services.
Digital revenue shown above is AOL's stated U.S. advertising revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs. Dial-up internet service revenue shown is the company's stated subscription revenue.
Time Warner on Dec. 9, 2009, spun off AOL to Time Warner shareholders as a separate public company. The split marked the end of a much-debunked merger resulting from America Online's acquisition of Time Warner on Jan. 11, 2001. (AOL and Time Warner announced their planned merger on Jan. 10, 2000. Excerpts from the press release announcing that "strategic merger of equals" are at the bottom of this profile.)
AOL trades on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker: AOL). AOL as of September 2010 had a market cap of $2.6 billion.
Time Warner in May 2009 announced plans for the AOL spinoff. Setting the stage for the spinoff, Time Warner in April 2009 hired Google executive Tim Armstrong as chairman-CEO of AOL.
AOL and Google have long-standing ties. Google began providing search services for AOL in July 2002.
AOL and Google expanded their strategic alliance in December 2005. As part of that alliance, Time Warner sold a 5% stake in AOL to Google for $1 billion cash. Time Warner repurchased Google's 5% interest in AOL for $283 million in cash in July 2009, prior to Time Warner's spinoff of AOL.
AOL and Google in September 2010 announced a five-year renewal and expansion of their search partnership through Dec. 31, 2015. (The pact had been set to expire in December 2010.) The companies' announcement said: "The global alliance, which has at its core Google's provision of search services to AOL's content network and properties, in exchange for a revenue-sharing arrangement between AOL and Google, will be expanded to include mobile search and [Google-owned] YouTube."
AOL has been heavily reliant on Google for revenue sharing. In its 10-K for year ended December 2009, AOL reported worldwide advertising revenue on AOL properties of $1.214 billion in 2009; $1.450 billion in 2008; and $1.553 billion in 2007. Nearly half of AOL's 2009 worldwide ad revenue came from the Google relationship.
Specifically, the 10-K for year ended December 2009 said: "For the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, the revenues associated with the Google relationship (substantially all of which were search and contextual revenues generated on AOL properties) were $556.7 million, $677.9 million and $642.1 million, respectively." That reflects AOL's slice of revenue coming from the revenue-sharing agreement with Google.
AOL has been cutting back on its own advertising. AOL's 10-K for year ended December 2009 disclosed advertising expenses of $59.3 million in 2009, $117.0 million in 2008 and $301.1 million in 2007.
Measured U.S. ad spending for the AOL brand plunged to $15.9 million in 2007 from $202.3 million in 2006 and $364 million in 2005. AOL in August 2006 announced a major shift, ceasing most marketing of its rapidly declining dial-up service and making many AOL services free to broadband users. The moves came as AOL focused on building advertising sales across the AOL network.
AOL's internet service provider business continues to decline as consumers abandon dial-up service in favor of broadband services from cable systems and phone companies.
AOL said it had 4.4 million domestic AOL-brand access subscribers as of June 30, 2010, down from 5.0 million at year-end 2009; 6.9 million at year-end 2008; 9.3 million at year-end 2007; 13.2 million at year-end 2006; and a peak of 26.7 million in September 2002.
In addition to the flagship AOL-brand dial-up service, AOL's subscription access business includes dial-up services offered under the CompuServe and Netscape brands.
AOL in January 1998 bought CompuServe, a pioneering online service, in a complex multi-stage transaction including asset swaps, cash and alliances involving H&R Block (CompuServe's then-owner), WorldCom and Bertelsmann.
AOL in 1999 bought Netscape, the company behind Netscape Navigator, an early internet browser, in a deal worth $4.2 billion in stock when announced in November 1998 and $10.2 billion in stock when the deal closed in March 1999, after a run-up in AOL's stock price.
Historically, AOL's primary subscription revenue has come from dial-up internet access, but AOL is looking for other ways to generate subscription revenue.
In its 10-K for year ended December 2009, AOL said: "Moving forward, we seek to develop, test and market new subscription products and services that are either owned by us or by third parties. To facilitate this goal, we are planning to develop a single, consumer-facing platform that will allow us to manage and distribute these additional subscription products as well as our subscription access service. We plan to offer those subscriptions to our access subscribers and to other internet consumers."
AOL's other ventures include Moviefone, a movie website acquired in May 1999 for about $388 million in stock (based on value at time of February 1999 announcement); MapQuest, a mapping website acquired in June 2000 for about $1.1 billion in stock (based on value at time of December 1999 announcement); and Advertising.com, an online advertising network acquired in August 2004 for $445 million.
AOL's 10-K for year ended December 2009 said: "Since January 1, 2008, we have acquired 12 businesses, and we are likely to make additional acquisitions and strategic investments in the future."
AOL acquisitions include:
Three deals announced Sept. 28, 2010: 5Min Media; TechCrunch; Thing Labs.
5Min Media, a video syndication startup bought in September 2010 for a reported $65 million. 5Min was founded in 2006 and is based in New York. At time of acquisition, 5Min had a library of 200,000 videos from 1,000 media companies and independent producers, and it syndicated video channels in various genres such as home, food, beauty, travel and pets. 5Min's distribution network included 800 websites. The deal gave AOL more video ad inventory to sell.
TechCrunch, a technology news blog. AOL in September 2010 struck a deal to buy TechCrunch for a reported $30 million including incentives.
Thing Labs, creator of the Brizzly family of web-based social software, acquired in September 2010. Thing Labs was founded in 2008 and is based on San Francisco.
StudioNow, a video technology venture, acquired in January 2010 for $32.1 million in cash and stock.
Patch Media Corp., a platform business for delivering community news and information, acquired in June 2009 for about $7 million cash.
Quigo Technologies, a site- and content-targeted advertising company, bought in December 2007 for $346.4 million cash.
Tacoda, an online behavioral targeting advertising company, acquired in September 2007 for $273.9 million cash.
Adtech, a German-based provider of online ad serving technology, bought in a series of transactions starting in May 2007 for $105.9 million cash.
Third Screen Media, a mobile advertising company and mobile ad serving management platform provider, bought in May 2007 for $105.4 million cash.
AOL has divested some non-core holdings.
AOL in third-quarter 2010 sold its stake in Kayak Software Corp. for $18.9 million. AOL originally invested in Kayak, which operates a travel website, in November 2004.
AOL on July 8, 2010, sold ICQ, an instant messaging operation, for $187.5 million cash. AOL bought ICQ in June 1998 for $407 million.
AOL on June 24, 2010, sold Digital Marketing Services (DMS Insights), an online sample and specialized research provider, to uSamp, an online panel and technology company, for $3.6 million. (AOL originally formed DMS in 1995 as a joint venture 70% owned by AOL and 30% by M/A/R/C Group. AOL bought out M/A/R/C's stake in 1999, the same year that Omnicom Group acquired M/A/R/C, a marketing-services firm.)
AOL sold Bebo, a troubled social-media network, on June 16, 2010, to Criterion Capital Partners, an advisory and consulting firm, for an undisclosed fire sale price, reportedly $10 million or less. (In its August 2010 10-Q filing, AOL said: "We expect to treat the common stock of Bebo as worthless for U.S. income tax reporting purposes in our 2010 consolidated U.S. federal income tax return.") Bebo launched in 2005 and was acquired by AOL in May 2008 for $859.8 million cash. Bebo at the time of AOL's 2008 acquisition employed about 100 people in offices in the U.K., San Francisco and Austin, Texas.
AOL on Feb. 26, 2010, sold Perfiliate Ltd. (doing business as buy.at) to Digital Window Ltd. for $16.4 million cash. This came two years after AOL on Feb. 5, 2008, bought Perfiliate, a U.K. firm offering performance-based advertising services, for $125.2 million cash.
AOL was incorporated on May 24, 1985, under the name Quantum Computer Services, which offered an online service called Q-Link. Quantum changed its name to America Online in 1991. America Online went public in 1992.
America Online on Jan. 11, 2001, completed its dot-com bubble-era acquisition of Time Warner. With that deal, America Online changed America Online's corporate name to AOL Time Warner. AOL Time Warner in September 2003 dropped its first name, truncating the company name to Time Warner. As noted, Time Warner spun off AOL on Dec. 9, 2009.
Below are excerpts from the Jan. 10, 2000, press release announcing America Online's acquisition of Time Warner:
America Online and Time Warner Will Merge to Create World's First Internet-Age Media and Communications Company
America Online, Inc. and Time Warner Inc. today announced a strategic merger of equals to create the world's first fully integrated media and communications company for the Internet Century in an all-stock combination valued at $350 billion.
To be named AOL Time Warner Inc. with combined revenues of over $30 billion, this unique new enterprise will be the premier global company delivering branded information, entertainment and communications services across rapidly converging media platforms.
The merger will combine Time Warner's vast array of world-class media, entertainment and news brands and its technologically advanced broadband delivery systems with America Online's extensive Internet franchises, technology and infrastructure, including the world's premier consumer online brands, the largest community in cyberspace, and unmatched e-commerce capabilities. AOL Time Warner's unparalleled resources of creative and journalistic talent, technology assets and expertise, and management experience will enable the new company to dramatically enhance consumers' access to the broadest selection of high-quality content and interactive services.
By merging the world's leading Internet and media companies, AOL Time Warner will be uniquely positioned to speed the development of the interactive medium and the growth of all its businesses. The new company will provide an important new broadband distribution platform for America Online's interactive services and drive subscriber growth through cross-marketing with Time Warner's pre-eminent brands.
When complete, America Online's shareholders will own approximately 55% and Time Warner's shareholders will own approximately 45% of the new company. The stock will be traded under the symbol AOL on the New York Stock Exchange. The merger will be accounted for as a purchase transaction. . . .
[AOL Chairman-CEO Steve] Case said: "This is an historic moment in which new media has truly come of age. We've always said that America Online's mission is to make the Internet as central to people's lives as the telephone and television, and even more valuable, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn this promise into reality. We're kicking off the new century with a unique new company that has unparalleled assets and the ability to have a profoundly positive impact on society. By joining forces with Time Warner, we will fundamentally change the way people get information, communicate with others, buy products and are entertained -- providing far-reaching benefits to our customers and shareholders." (Note: Case resigned from Time Warner's board in October 2005.)
[Time Warner Chairman-CEO Gerald] Levin said: "This strategic combination with AOL accelerates the digital transformation of Time Warner by giving our creative and content businesses the widest possible canvas. The digital revolution has already begun to create unprecedented and instantaneous access to every form of media and to unleash immense possibilities for economic growth, human understanding and creative expression. AOL Time Warner will lead this transformation, improving the lives of consumers worldwide."
Mr. Levin added: "I look forward to partnering with Steve Case--a visionary leader of the Internet--and his impressive management team. The opportunities are limitless for everyone connected to AOL Time Warner--shareholders, consumers, advertisers, the creative and talented people who drive our success, and the global audiences we serve." (Note: Levin exited as CEO of the merged company in May 2002.)
[America Online President Bob] Pittman said: "The value of this merger lies not only in what it is today but in what it will be in the future. We believe that AOL Time Warner will provide companies worldwide with a convenient, one-stop way to put advertising and commerce online as well as take advantage of the best in traditional marketing. We will accelerate the development of Time Warner's cable broadband assets by bringing AOL's hallmark ease-of-use to this platform. We expect America Online to help drive the growth of cable broadband audiences, and we will use our combined infrastructure and cross-promotional strengths to enhance the growth and development of both America Online and Time Warner brands around the world." (Note: Pittman resigned as chief operating officer of the merged company in July 2002.)
[Time Warner President Richard] Parsons said: "This is a defining event for Time Warner and America Online as well as a pivotal moment in the unfolding of the Internet age. By joining the resources and talents of these two highly creative companies, we can accelerate the development and deployment of a whole new generation of interactive services and content. The heightened competition and expanded choices this will bring about will be of great benefit to consumers. For the creative and innovative people who are the lifeblood of our companies, it means a truly exciting range of new opportunities to explore and give shape to. For our shareholders, it means we'll be able to grow in ways we couldn't have as separate companies, producing superior returns in both the short and long term." (Note: Parsons served as CEO of the merged company from May 2002 through Dec. 31, 2007. Time Warner President Jeffrey Bewkes succeeded Parsons as CEO. Parsons left Time Warner's board in May 2009.)
Tim Armstrong, chmn & CEO
AOL/770 Broadway/New York, N.Y. 10003/Phone: (212) 652-6400.
Sources: *Net U.S. media revenue figures are Ad Age estimates. See methodology for sources.