Starting in January, AOL will launch a new service entitled In2TV. The service will offer a large array of back catalogue television shows from AOL’s sister company – Warner Brothers. We can expect to see shows like Welcome Back Kotter, Wonder Woman, Babylon 5, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Chico and the Man, and the science fiction series V.
In an interview with WorldTV, AOL confirmed my concern that the service would not be available to users outside of the United States. As usual, this is to do with territorial rights issues. In basic terms, foreign TV stations have paid for exclusive rights to broadcast these shows in their own countries, and AOL is unable or unwilling to renegotiate those contracts.
[In a future entry I will explore this ‘territory’ issue more closely, and discuss ways that people are legally circumventing these restrictions, as well as my belief that media companies should be doing more to open up their television content globally.]
Delving deeper into AOL’s plans, it would appear that AOL has thought carefully and creatively about the planned service. It will certainly appeal to TV addicts. Fans, for instance, will be able to search shows by phrases and keywords, and the programming has been divided up into six themed channels. I particularly like the ‘Creme de la Creme’ feature, which will showcase only the most memorable episodes of a particular series, and StarFavs – the episodes that the stars themselves like the most. How about a collaborative filtering engine for like minded recommendations?
Other fully interactive content is also on the cards. This will include Instant Messenger chats with cast members, TV trivia quizzes so you can test your knowledge of a particular show, and the somewhat dubious notion of a karaoke service that allows you to sing along to your ‘favourite TV show themes’.
The service will be completely free to the end user, and will be supported by 1-2 minutes of advertising per half-hour show. You will not need to register for the service (well done), but you will need to install a browser plugin, available for both Mac and PC and Firefox. I have tested this plugin, and found it to be very easy to install and use. The picture can go full screen and the quality is stunning. Streams of up to 700kbps are available.
If you would like to try out some of the services before anyone else, AOL is currently running an excellent trial site, available to users inside and outside of the United States.
The site’s future home page can be found here, and original press releases can be found here and here. The company providing the streaming technology is the fast-rising Kontiki.

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