RealTime IT News

AOL Inks TV Partnerships

Furthering its AOL Anywhere strategy to make its flagship online service available through non-PC devices, America Online Inc. Tuesday announced four partnerships in the development of its AOL TV product.

The partners are: DIRECTV Inc.; Hughes Network Systems (HNS); Philips Electronics; and Network Computer Inc. (NCI).

AOL said its TV offering will expand connected interactivity to television and will be designed for easy use, convenience, and transmit AOL functionality to TV sets. Set-top boxes will be connected to AOL through built-in 56-kilobit modems and will have Universal Serial Bus ports to support Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) connectivity. Unnamed new features are also slated.

Satellite television service provider DIRECTV, with 7 million subscribers, will work with AOL to create a new service that integrates digital satellite television programming from DIRECTV with AOL TV's enhanced interactive television Internet service.

HNS, which is the world's second largest manufacturer of the DIRECTV system in the world will design and develop the dual purpose AOL TV/DIRECTV set-top receiver. Although satellite TV programming will be available through the box, high-speed satellite Internet connectivity will not be offered.

Set-top box provider Philips Electronics has been tapped to produce an advanced set-top box enabled for AOL TV.

NCI is slated to provide a complete software platform for the AOL TV service. NCI's TV Navigator software will work in tandem with the Philips and DIRECTV System set top boxes to display various Internet-based television services and content for both dial-up and satellite set-top boxes. In addition, NCI's Connect Server will manage and administer the AOL devices connected to the network. These technologies will offer an open Internet platform scalable to support AOL's customer base, and are future-proof to support additional information appliances.

"AOL has always focused on making the online experience a key part of our members' lives," said Bob Pittman, America Online's president and chief operating officer.

"As consumers want to extend that interactive experience to connected non-PC devices, we will continue to deliver our hallmark ease-of-use and convenience, and as connected interactivity becomes available on platforms like the television, AOL will be there for consumers. This extension of the AOL brand also will provide significant opportunities to our advertising and commerce partners," Pittman said.

"We anticipate that AOL's powerful brand will drive the acceptance and value of interactive television. Our membership base of more than 17 million, who are embedding connected interactivity into their lives, will be among those most interested in extending this experience to other devices," said Barry Schuler, president of America Online Interactive Services Group.

AOL spokesman Wendy Goldberg would not say when the offering will debut. She said modifications have to be made to AOL's service before the service can be offered.