DULLES, Virginia: AOL has stolen a march on the major US television networks by tempting traditional advertisers to part with their dollars ahead of next month's 'upfronts' ritual - the commercial airtime sales auction for the fall season.

The online giant's array of new programmes and features is intended to attract a generous share of America's annual $70 billion (€51.5bn; £34.7bn) TV ad budget

Avers ceo Randy Falco, an erstwhile NBC TV senior executive: "It really is a recognition that the marketplace is starting to shift in a very big way away from broadcasting, away from print, and more and more to online."

AOL is currently transforming itself from a subscriber-funded dial-up web provider to a free ad-supported service. It attracted $2bn in ad revenue last year, ranking third after Google and Yahoo.

Around 500 advertisers and media buyers attended a glitzy AOL presentation in New York, hyping the company's upcoming offerings. Among them a game related to the new Shrek the Third movie, opening next month, and a tie-in with the Ellen DeGeneres Show in which fans can share their video clips.

Alec Gerster, ceo of media buyer Initiative Worldwide, was impressed by AOL's pitch because, he said, it came at a time when advertisers were trying to effectively integrate their campaigns across all kinds of media.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff