The greatest shift in the TV/Internet space won't be coming in the wake of the dotcom downturn. Instead, it's the final fruition of the AOL Time Warner merger forged at the height of the market mania. Now that the deal is done, the challenge of making the massive media conglomerate click has just begun.
The first step in the reorganization came with the March 6 announcement that The WB broadcast-network founder and CEO Jamie Kellner would head a new division gathering The WB and Turner Broadcasting TV, cable and Internet properties under one roof. Finding symbiosis among these, along with additional opportunities from AOL.com, Netscape and the exploding instant-messaging phenomenon, will take some time. Even so, anticipation of the merger has altered some strategies already.
"We've shifted focus to finding synergies within AOL Time Warner," says Mindy Stockfield, Cartoon Network Online's director of marketing. "This makes us a lot smarter with our marketing efforts, cutting back on spending but seeing how we can accomplish even more working internally."
Jim Walton, president of domestic networks for the CNN News Group, expects that outreach efforts will continue as before. "Prior to AOL, the Turner Networks didn't put themselves just on Time Warner cable," he says. "TNT, TBS and CNN looked to get on every cable system. We'll continue to do that in the interactive space, as well. We'll try to make our content available to whoever wants to have it."
The sheer size and reach of the AOL Time Warner holdings are enormous both online and off-line. A Jupiter Media Metrix report states that one-third of all time spent online in the U.S. is with content controlled by the media conglomerate. Its reach to consumers is almost all encompassing, with at-home and at-work penetration over 72%.