David Worthington is a technology journalist with a background in business and marketing. His work has been published among leading Internet news sites and in print within the pages of the IT industry's most recognized magazines.


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    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    In2TV: AOL'S Hidden Gem


    America Online has put some of Time Warner’s on the Web. While iTunes and CBS are charging for episodic content, AOL is giving it away for free. All it asks is that its users endure less than two minutes worth of advertisements from its sponsors. The service is called In2TV.

    People who are “in the know” understand that the best place to find the most comprehensive collective of TV shows on the Web is a Torrent Web site. Let’s face it; P2P is the best vehicle to distribute large files, but most torrent downloads from popular index sites such as Torrent Spy and IsoHunt are illegal.

    AOL’s answer to that trend is its Hi-Q P2P software, developed by Kontiki. Users benefit from the efficiencies of P2P, but AOL’s digital rights management keeps it within the law. What’s more, AOL is also much more reliable than traditional P2P. Although, it shares a common flaw with most P2P clients: its software wanted to load in the system tray at Windows start up.

    The perception of Joe User may be, "more bloatware from AOL." Anyone that has installed the Triton AIM client knows what I am talking about.

    Thus far, AOL is offering up: Babylon 5; Eight is Enough; F Troop; Falcon Crest; Growing Pains; Head of the Class; La Femme Nikita; Pinky and the Brain; Sisters; and Welcome Back, Kotter. There is also a series of pilot episodes. A full season of each show is available for show enthusiasts to get their fix.

    Naturally, I gave it a whirl. Recalling my youth, I clicked on Pinky and the Brain. Then process left me vexed - plug-ins and software installed, reinstalled, but then didn’t take. The DRM process through Windows Media Player was likewise not seemless. DRM should be transparent to users.

    The process cycled until; finally I was able to watch. Now, the site works on the first click, but I almost surrendered. Hopefully these are growing pains.

    Its system requirements are:

    • Operating System: Windows® XP, 32 bit or 64 bit
    • Media Player: Windows® Media Player version 10.0 get it HERE!
    • Web Browser: Internet Explorer 6.0+, Netscape® 7.2 and 8.0+, Firefox® 1.0.7+
    • An Internet connection
    • Macromedia® Flash Player 8. Get it HERE!
    • In2TV video is only licensed for viewing in the United States.

    Don’t ask me what happened, it was confusing and I didn’t take notes. Note that my preferred browser is Firefox 1.5. As you see, AOL claims that the browser is supported, but there must be some wrinkles to iron out.

    It remains to be seen whether or not users want to sit in front of their computer to watch TV. Personally, I do, and Apple’s success is telling. iTunes will soon begin to sell monthly “subscriptions” for unlimited show downloads. Unlike other subscription price models, Apple permits ownership.

    But Apple is encountering resistance from the Screen Actor’s Guild which wants a cut of the $2 sales for its members.

    Eventually (probably sometime this year) AOL will launch a for-cost Video store. Episodes are expected to sell for $2 USD a piece with the option to subscribe. AOL has a proclivity for video; it is its core competency. In fact, a company spokesperson once told me that AOL was a media company above all else.

    The problem is that people still associate the brand with the mind-numbing AOL client software and dropped dial-up connections. I spoke to several friends about In2TV, none of whom knew anything about it.

    More than half of US households now have broadband, so the timing is right. AOL is making a substantial push to get its users onto broadband for its long-term well-being; its portal traffic has flattened out.

    The long awaited synergies of the January 2000 AOL Time Warner merger are being realized. With the inclusion of HBO, AOL’s video library will be formidable. Logic dictates that it would have fewer troubles with the Screen Actor’s Guild because it is a producer and not a downstream firm like Apple is.

    If I was Apple, I would be concerned about staying on top so long as AOL can drive traffic to its Web sites and work on that brand image problem.

    Comments on ""

     

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