While the bleak advertising market was largely to blame for lower-than-expected revenues, media
behemoth AOL Time Warner still showed strength in its online sector — compared to peers in the
Web publishing industry — and a growing aptitude for lucrative cross-media deals.
The company’s America Online unit posted revenues of $2.13 billion, $706 million of which came
from advertising and
commerce. (The company doesn’t break out revenues further.) That’s actually a two percent
decrease from last quarter.
But co-chief operating officer Bob Pittman described a performance better than most other
online competitors — which don’t have an offline channel with which to tie ad deals.
“Our synergies are hitting, and they’re hitting big,” Pittman said. “This quarter … shows
just how critical our diverse revenue
streams are in this economy.”
Pittman said America Online had been successfully side-stepping most of the stigma attached to
Internet ads thanks to efforts at integrating client brand messaging with content.
“All of our online promotions are customized,” he said. “Subscribers … find these ads more
compelling than traditional
Evidently, those promotions also helped the offline portions of the company to shoulder the
advertising slowdown. Using
house ads on the America Online service, AOL Time Warner generated about 100,000 new
subscriptions per month to Time Inc.
Additionally, promotion on America Online boosted traffic to former Time Warner Web sites 54
percent, while integration of
the company’s entertainment content has made AOL’s Entertainment Channel one of the leading such
sites on the Internet.
Pittman also referenced the vast slate of marketing agreements inked with traditional
advertisers — such as deals earlier this
month with Nestle, Philips and Samsung, deals that he described as “now becoming a way of life at
AOL Time Warner.”
One example was described in a separate announcement on Tuesday, in which AOL Time Warner
signed yet another cross-platform deal with a large advertiser — Clinton, Miss.-based telecom
giant WorldCom. That multi-million dollar agreement, a revamping of a previous ad deal, will see
ads for WorldCom’s MCI Group appearing on the America Online service, on Turner Broadcasting and
However, Pittman admitted that much of the company’s cross-platform synergies currently are
being used for internal promotion. But executives said that when the ad market begins to turn
around at the end of the year, those synergies will place AOL Time Warner in good stead with
“In a funny way, the ad market has forced us to speed up integration … and these benefits
will be amplified in a normal ad
market,” Pittman said.
Based on those expectations of a firming ad market in late 2001, chief financial officer Mike
Kelly gave guidance of a full-year
cash earnings performance of $1.28 to $1.32 per share, or $40 billion in revenue and $11 billion
in earnings — well above analyst
consensus of $1.23 per share.
Furthermore, chief executive Gerald Levin described an effort designed to take advantage of a
coming reversal in advertising’s
fortunes. During the company’s conference call Tuesday, Levin outlined an initiative that would
begin later this year and which
would integrate broadband, wireless and mainstream Internet content with local advertising.
“We have three local zones in the company: AOL Digital City, Time Warner and Time Inc.,” Levin
said. “We’re now
integrating and selling together these local platforms, tapping into $100 billion a year market.”
Levin and other executives did not discuss the initiative in greater detail, aside to say that
it was in conjunction with the fall
rollout of version 7.0 of the America Online software.