RealTime IT News


America Online Inc. Monday took to the airwaves with the launch its interactive television services for the masses, dubbed AOLTV.

AOLTV viewers can watch television using their existing broadcast signals and choose from a variety of popular AOL features including e-mail, instant messaging, chat and a built-in programming guide. The service is connected through a set-top box and comes with a wireless keyboard or universal remote control.

The launch of AOLTV is the latest jewel in America Online's "AOL Anywhere" marketing crown. In addition to AOL's wireless initiatives, the service provider is intent on bringing one of its branded Internet services to online consumers anywhere, anytime through a range of wired and wireless devices.

The service will first be offered in eight selected markets including Phoenix, Ariz., Sacramento, Calif. and Baltimore. AOLTV will then be rolled out to its American Online's 23 million members nationwide, just in time for the holiday sales surge.

AOLTV initially will be available through a set-top box from Philips Electronics Inc. , and will be sold at Circuit City Stores Inc. locations for just under $250 before the summer is through. In addition to traditional bricks-and-mortar sales, AOL will sell the set-top box at its AOLTV portal on the Web.

Basic AOLTV service costs $14.95 each month and can be added to AOL members $22 monthly Internet services fees. Non-member access is provided for $25 a month, in addition to separate Internet service fees.

Bob Pittman, AOL president and chief operating officer, said AOLTV adds new and exciting dimensions to an activity most people do for several hours a day.

"AOLTV makes the TV experience even more valuable and creates an incredible opportunity for television programmers to reach audiences in creative and powerful new ways," Pittman said. We look forward to working with many partners just as we have on the AOL service to make this a win-win for consumers and those in the television industry."

AOL teamed up with a variety of broadcasting companies to provide content for AOLTV. Deals with E! Entertainment Television, Oxygen Media, Starz Encore Group, and others comprise the current core of AOLTV content.

Barry Schuler, AOL president of interactive services, said AOLTV makes it easy for American's to combine two passions, watching television and the Web.

"Our members tell us they are online and watching TV together more and more," Schuler said. "AOLTV will make it easier for them to combine these two important activities into one, even more rewarding experience."

"For those who want to be able to access their online accounts from another point in the home, this allows two people to be online on their AOL account from different devices at the same time," Schuler added. "We know our members are excited about that as their time spent online increases, and more people take advantage of the opportunity to have up to seven screen names per account."

The set-top box for the AOLTV service is easy to install and use, and comes with videotape explaining the setup process. The specially designed wireless keyboard and universal remote control are configured with special function keys that provide one-step access to key features such as the AOLTV Program Guide, e-mail, or the Buddy List service.