updated 09:25 pm EST, Wed March 15, 2006
InTV digital TV network
America Online has launched its new digital video service in conjunction with Time Warner. The online television network called In2TV is accessible on the web with any browser or from AOL's home page; however, the service is only available to US viewers using Windows users, as licensing restricts geographical viewing and the underlying Windows Media Player 10 technology is only available to Windows users. Touted as "the first" broadband television network, it offers free, ad-sponsored, on-demand TV shows on the Web, including full episodes of popular programs from the past 40 years such as Welcome Back, Kotter, Chico & The Man, Alice, Growing Pains, Sisters, Kung Fu, Lois & Clark and many others; it also features interactive features and viral videos that enable audiences to experience and interact with television programming in what the companies says is "an entirely new way."
"In2TV breaks new ground as the first true broadband television network. With the largest collection of full length television programming anywhere on the Web, plus interactive features and viral videos all free and on-demand, In2TV will appeal to existing fans as well as introduce these shows to a whole new generation," said Kevin Conroy, Executive Vice President, AOL Media Networks. "In2TV is another important milestone in the evolution of video on the Web, and is one more way that we are making AOL.com the best destination for video online."
Mac users left out
AOL's new TV service relies on Microsoft technology. A Mac user visiting the site receives the following Windows XP-centric error message: "You have received this page because you do not have the necessary software to watch video on In2TV -- the first broadband TV network. AOL has included rights protection on all In2TV video content and you need Windows XP and Windows Media Player 10 to experience all that this great new service has to offer."
Because earlier this year Microsoft announced it would no longer develop future Mac versions of Windows Media Player, Mac users may never be able to access the online content, although they could purchase it on DVD.
The online TV network offers hundreds of episodes from dozens of shows every month, along with quizzes, puzzles, photo galleries and polls tied to the various shows. The shows are organized into six genre-themed channels (with two more to launch this summer), including LOL TV, Dramarama TV, Toon Topia, Heroes and Horrors, What a Rush TV, and Vintage TV.
In addition, the service offers "In2Active TV," unique interactive experiences that test fans' knowledge of TV trivia and offer other games and challenges. At launch, "In2Active TV" will include a Growing Pains memory game called "Mike," similar to the popular 80's game "Simon"; a Babylon 5-themed game called "Spaceoids," a throwback to the classic arcade game where the user fires away at space rock and debris; and a Pinky and the Brain drawing activity where users can create their own cartoons the old fashioned way--one frame at a time. Each of these series will also feature TVIQ quizzes which run concurrent with the airing of specific show episodesm, adding a new dimension to the traditional viewing experience.
AOL said that sevice would offer instream broadband advertising as well as opportunities for sponsorships and accompanying banner ads. Video ads would be offered in both 15- and 30-second spots, but would be limited to a total of 1-2 minutes within each 30-minute episode as compared to 8 minutes of advertising on broadcast television, according to the companies.
The approach is dramatically different from the recent announcement of ad-free on-demand video of NCAA's Men's Basketball tournament games or sponsorship-free content available on iTunes or Google for $1.99 per TV episode. It represents a yet another attempt to monetize TV content.
CBS Corp.'s move to stream telecasts has been dubbed "watershed event" with vast implications for the television landscape, according to a former president of CBS Sports. Although CBS and Apple announced that game highlights and some full-game videos wil be available for purchase on iTunes the following day, CBS is also offering live out-of-market broadcasts of "March Madness" games at NCAAsports.com.