As part of America Online Inc.'s (AOL) efforts to revamp its struggling Internet service, the company may strike a deal with sister magazine publisher Time Inc. to take some content from Time's free Web sites and make it exclusive to AOL's 35 million subscribers.
The agreement would significantly shore up AOL's content offerings, adding entertainment, lifestyle and celebrity news from Time magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, People and Teen People, according to a report published Monday in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal. The deal would also signal a move away from free content on the Web, which could cause frustration among some surfers who have grown accustomed to reading Time's publications online.
Faced with mounting competition and slowed subscriber growth, AOL has been looking for ways to revive its Internet service by offering more exclusive programming. With the introduction of its new 8.0 software last month, the Internet service provider (ISP) has also switched to cable-like programming, shifting its content to suit different times of the day and week.
A possible deal with Time would give AOL another feather in its cap when it comes to competing with rival ISPs such as MSN, which has its own array of alliances offering content from sources such as news provider NBC and sports powerhouse ESPN. A content alliance between Time and AOL is expected to be discussed Dec. 3 when the ISP meets with parent company AOL Time Warner Inc. (AOLTW) to plan an overhaul of the faltering service.
Although the Journal reported that both AOLTW properties seem amenable to the agreement, resistance from individual Time publishers and concern that some online readers would be alienated could throw a wrench in the plan. AOLTW representatives were not immediately available to comment.