Just An Online Minute... The Web Morphs Into TV

After months of planning America Online today began the rollout of its free portal site, With the new offering, AOL has made available for free a wide variety of content that previously was available only to subscribers.

While this content includes written material, the centerpiece of AOL's strategy is entertainment-oriented content, especially streaming videos. In other words, AOL is morphing into something that looks a lot more like a TV channel--albeit one that offers programs on demand--than a resource for information. In fact, as part of the free portal's launch, AOL is creating a new television-like reality show, "The Biz," which will be available in streaming format.

AOL isn't the only Web property to attempt this TV-like transformation. Just yesterday, began offering streaming videos for free. Tonight,, which has offered streaming content from NBC for a while, will make available on-demand streams of Katie Couric's interview with Jennifer Wilbanks, aka the "Runaway Bride," immediately after it airs on TV tonight.



But, even though more and more Web sites are offering a vast array of streaming videos, it remains to be seen whether they'll be able to monetize such content. One major hurdle is technological--not all consumers have broadband and, even with high-speed connections, the quality isn't yet as good as TV. Another problem is that consumers can't easily find videos online; video search engines aren't comprehensive, largely because much of the video available on the Internet lacks meta tags.

These challenges indicate that it might take longer than the online industry hopes for streaming video-related ad dollars to start flooding the Internet. But, just as Google and Yahoo! eventually figured out how to develop and monetize text-oriented search engines, it likely is inevitable that Web companies will come up with a way to search and monetize the vast array of available video content. Until that time comes, AOL, along with its competitors, should be prepared to show some patience.

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