19 June 2000

As forecast [WAMN, 15-Jun-00] America Online will today announce detailed plans for the rollout of AOLTV, its ambitious new interactive television service.

As of mid-July citizens of eight US cities will be offered the opportunity to use their ordinary TV sets to surf the net, send emails and engage in chat via newsgroups. At the core of the service is a Philips-made set-top box costing $249; a wireless keyboard and remote control is included in the price.

Existing AOL users will pay a monthly fee of $14.95 for the service, but non-AOL members are not currently being targeted. "We're not trying to get people who are not online to buy AOLTV," says president of AOL Interactive Services, Barry Schuler.

Nor does AOL see the domestic TV set as a replacement for PCs and Macs as the mainstream web-access device. Instead it is promoting AOLTV as an “enhancement of the viewing experience” – implicitly endorsing criticism that the passive nature of TV-viewing is contrary to the typing and clicking involved required in web surfing.

According to Schuler, the company will focus on selling the service to its existing 23m subscribers and is cooling speculation as to a possible move into interactive television. But by year-end, AOLTV intends to incorporate TiVo technology that enables the to freezing and replaying of images while watching live broadcasts.

News source: Financial Times