RealTime IT News

AOL, CNET in Multi-Million Pact; Service Passes 16 Million Members

America Online, Inc. Tuesday announced it will team with CNET in a two-and-a-half-year, $14.5 million content and e-commerce agreement.

AOL also announced that its worldwide membership now totals more than 16 million members.

Under the terms of the alliance, AOL is to receive guaranteed payments of $14.5 million and will be eligible for additional payments upon meeting specific criteria established in the agreement.

AOL has tapped CNET to provide it with computer hardware and software buying guides for AOL's service, as well as AOL.com, CompuServe and Digital City sites. Selected international AOL sites will also carry the guides. In addition, initially CNET will be the exclusive provider of free downloadable software on AOL.COM.

CNET will be responsible for developing co-branded versions of its computer buying guides, offering features such as reviews, recommendations, comparison shopping features and real-time pricing on a Web directory of a variety of resellers.

The customized buying guides will be geared to the needs of consumers including first-time buyers, families, students, small office/home office users, Web site creators, mobile professionals, gamers and women. Incorporated within the guides will be AOL's Personal Logic decision guide technology, which enables CNET to create question and answer items.

CNET will also create several co-branded, computing-related content areas throughout AOL, integrating information and services on topics such as software downloading, gaming and Web building.

The deal also calls for the development of AOL-related content on CNET television programming and other video-based projects.

AOL's announcement of 16 million worldwide subscribers comes just two months after it announced membership of 15 million members.

AOL cited strong computer sales as a factor behind its record growth. The company said that according to research from International Data Corp., shipments of PCs increased to over 27 million units worldwide in the last quarter of 1998, up 15 percent from a year ago.

"We are extremely pleased that our AOL membership continues to grow at a record pace," said Bob Pittman, America Online's president and chief operating officer.

"Consumers increasingly are finding our complete, easy-to-use package of connectivity, community, content, context and commerce is the best way to go online. This industry-leading convenience together with the power of the No. 1 brand in cyberspace, we are able to capitalize on the strong momentum in PC sales."