AOL To Sell Video Downloads

AOL will enter the growing download-to-own video business later this week, when it begins selling a myriad of TV programs--including Comedy Central's "South Park," "A&E's "Flip This House," and Warner Bros.' "Dukes of Hazzard"--as part of its new video portal.

The new portal will contain video shows from networks affiliated with corporate sibling Time Warner--such as "The Closer" and "Saved," by TNT--as well as shows owned by other companies, like "Chappelle's Show," owned by Viacom's MTV Networks Comedy Central.

The portal will contain a total of 45 programmed "channels," and users will also be able to search for videos using technology from Truveo--the video search engine AOL purchased last December--and Singingfish, acquired in 2003.

Most of the TV shows will be sold for $1.99 each--the same price as most video programs on Apple's iTunes--but a handful of programs, including episodes of Procter & Gamble's current and former soap operas like "Another World" and "The Edge of Night," will be available as free ad-supported downloads.

The ads will include pre-roll and a banner on the media player. Marketers that have signed on so far include Mercedes-Benz, Kraft, Visa, Hershey's, Procter & Gamble, Ford, and Chevrolet.

Since Apple began selling TV shows on iTunes last year, all of the major networks have made programs available for paid download. Mostly, they have sold shows on iTunes, but some networks have started selling or giving away programs at other video Web sites, including ones owned by Google and MSN.

Separately, AOL parent company Time Warner will outline its strategy for AOL Wednesday. There has been widespread speculation that Time Warner will stop charging for many AOL subscription services, including e-mail.

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