AOL Broadband Head Sees Good Future

The president of AOL Broadband said Tuesday that the company has seen striking success in merging television content in the broadband environment.

Lisa Hook spoke during the Yankee Group's Connected Consumer Summit, a two-day event that finished Tuesday afternoon in New York City. She said that multimedia services that have become a part of AOL for Broadband have enhanced the experience of viewers of unscripted television programs and big events like the Super Bowl and the Grammy Awards. Those "small steps" were the signs of bigger things to come, she said.

One convergence between the Internet and television occurred during The Bachelorette's run on ABC earlier this year. Telepictures cut special footage for AOL, including right-after-the-boot interviews with ousted contestants. The interviews went up on the site immediately after the show aired.

Hook said this proved popular for AOL users, who went to the site after the show to get more on the unscripted series than was available on the TV show. "It's an instant watercooler effect," Hook said.

Also popular was AOL's access to the Super Bowl commercials after the third quarter of the game. The site was heavily accessed and a poll to pick favorite spots garnered 650,000 votes in the 24 hours after the game. "People were literally running over from the TV to the PC," she said. This has helped to extend the television-online community and is a step toward appointment viewing and instant television interactivity.

But that doesn't mean that AOL is going to take another step toward getting into television. Hook said AOL will leave that to broadcast and cable.

"We've lost quite enough money on AOL TV, so we're not really focused on owning the TV industry," Hook said in a response to a question from the Yankee Group conference's participants Tuesday morning. She said AOL Broadband would continue partnering with content providers in television and music.

Hook said AOL for Broadband has exceeded the company's expectations in its first months of operation. She said extensive research of Internet users - including 25,000 in and out of AOL's subscriber base - uncovered things that customers wanted and other features they didn't want. Hook said AOL was focusing on consumer wants in a broadband service.

AOL, which recently introduced AOL 8.0 Plus for primarily broadband customers, was moving away from a software-industry model of updates every year or so and toward a day-to-day evaluation model. "We're becoming more of a media company," Hook said.

She outlined some of the innovations that AOL consumers wanted, and said that the majority of quality content on the Net was moving toward a paid model.

"Content is going a la carte," Hook said. She described some of the services, which include virus and security software updating, and content from Cable News Network and NASCAR. "There's not much that's any quality that's free on the Net anymore," she said.

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