AOLs Case: Taking baby steps


Steve Case, chairman and CEO of America Online, outlined a vision of television's future last week-in AOL TV terms.

Quoting Duke Ellington and Bruce Springsteen in a far-ranging address suggesting AOL's priorities to push quality content in all formats, Case offered a sense of what AOL TV would be when it debuts later this year. "AOL TV will give people the interactivity they want when they watch television," he said, adding that Time Warner content will help " jump-start" the rollout.

AOL TV will include "state-of-the-art" navigational services, a "new genre" of interactive programming and a new marketing platform, according to Case. He emphasized navigation, noting that the only major change in TV as a medium has been the proliferation of channels that are increasingly difficult to find.

Responding to questions after his keynote address at last week's Variety Schroders Big Picture conference in New York, Case sought to downplay the role Time Warner TV, movie and music content will play in supporting the new service. "We'll use some Time Warner content assets, but we'll also use other company assets."

But he said AOL's interactive TV vision would be a conservative one, "baby-stepping your way by adding some interactivity to television, adding some enhancements to how you find shows you want, but not trying to turn the television into a PC. That would be dumb."

On open access, Case said he views the restructuring of AT & T's deal with Excite@Home as a "major step forward." The restructuring, he said, would make it easier for AT & T to implement the open-access principles it had previously outlined. "I'm confident as we get into the second half of this year, the promise of open access will be a reality in the marketplace."

After his address, Case said AOL was in conversations with "most of the MSO's" about open access, but declined to name cable companies.