Time Warner's Old TV Shows Move To AOL: Will Consumers Go Slumming?

Time Warner's deal to put decades-old TV shows on the Internet--free with advertising on its sister company AOL--points up the problem of entertainment glut.

Some 100 old TV shows such as "Falcon Crest," "Welcome Back, Kotter" and "Chico and The Man" couldn't find a home on the lowest of TV stations or cable networks--not even TVLand or the sixth-ranked station in a TV market.

"We always have this stuff on the shelf," Eric Frankel, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution told the Los Angeles Times. What does that say about these shows? That TV consumers have moved on.

Surely, one can understand Time Warner looking to mine every crumb of its entertainment empire. Why just let any asset sit in the shelf--especially ones that are already paid for? But consumers can smell a rat a mile away. If you give them something for free--or virtually free--they can guess its value. AOL will be selling the shows with only two minutes of advertising time per half-hour, rather than the usual eight minutes. That would seem to be a bargain as well.



It's interesting that in the last two weeks ABC, NBC, and CBS have offered some of their hottest shows in alternative paid-for windows such as iTunes Music Stores, DirecTV, and Comcast On-Demand services.

Now Time Warner works the other end of the entertainment spectrum--by its own admission, giving consumers some of the least-wanted entertainment on alternative video screens. Their aim, though, is to convince advertisers there is enough value to this venture to have some financial logic.

No one really knows if consumers will come to these new entertainment products at all. ABC, CBS, and NBC believe viewers will move uptown. Time Warner believes they might also be slumming.

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