The spiritual union between US media giant Time Warner and internet titan America Online has finally been consummated in more physical terms - four years after their high-profile marriage.

At long last, the not-so-happy couple have melded their technological assets rather than intangibles. The Time Warner Cable division is to offer AOL for free to its Road Runner high speed internet subscribers, a move designed to profit both partners.

AOL hopes to bolster its place in the broadband market as it continues to bleed dial-up customers. For Time Warner Cable the lure is increased advertising revenue.

Under the agreement AOL, which has 23.4 million US subscribers, will sell online ads for both divisions. Time Warner Cable also hopes the AOL carrot will lock in subscribers who might be contemplating a move to less expensive high speed services.

Says AOL ceo Jonathan Miller: "This arrangement is different in character, scale and scope to anything we have done before. We are going to actively market to our dial-up base and get them on Time Warner Cable. Our subscribers will remain with AOL in the process. This answers the question of what will happen to AOL in a broadband world."

While Time Warner cable ceo Glenn Britt says: "We think we will get many more broadband customers than we've been getting and more advertising revenue than we've been getting."

The new service is being marketed immediately in North Carolina and will roll out nationwide over the coming months.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff