AOL Retools Video Site to Offer User-Made Content

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By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 31, 2006

AOL is revamping its video site in an attempt to match popular do-it-yourself Web services like YouTube.com, while also improving its video-search tool and offering more programming as it tries to win loyal viewers.

The company, which is the Dulles-based Web division of Time Warner Inc., plans to announce today that the relaunched site will go live on Friday, giving customers the ability to upload videos from a camcorder, webcam, video-enabled cellphone or PC. The ability to search for user-generated content has been the major selling point for sites like YouTube and Google Video, which have help popularize homemade videos online.

"In the past year we've seen video has exploded on the Web," said Josh Freeman, vice president of AOL Video. Last year, AOL marked one of the milestones in online video with its broadcast of the Live 8 concerts to benefit Africa. Now, AOL is aiming to offer the widest possible selection on its site, from home videos to professionally produced shows. It will continue to offer some free television shows such as "Welcome Back, Kotter," as well as pay-per-view shows such as "SpongeBob SquarePants."

At relaunch, the site will have more than 45 video-on-demand channels, including new programming from the History Channel, Comedy Time, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, WNBA, and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

"We're trying to integrate all elements," instead of specializing in user-generated video or movie trailers, or having a video store, Freeman said. AOL's goal is to get viewers to think about tuning into Internet videos the way they turn on their television, he said.

AOL, which acquired Truveo Inc. and Singingfish Inc., said its new product will feature higher-quality results when users search for videos -- a technical challenge that Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and other competitors are also trying to tackle. AOL said it is designing search technology that "sees" images, as well as effectively mines for verbal information associated with the videos.

According to AOL, the site will also allow for better and faster replay times, so a user can start watching a video before it has fully downloaded.

AOL Video's business will probably follow the business model that the rest of AOL is pursuing: Relying on advertisement revenue instead of subscription fees. "Over time, we think we will offer predominantly advertising-supported content," Freeman said.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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