AOL Adds CNN Service to Lure Broadband Subs


America Online is getting some good news from a content deal that delivers Cable News Network's NewsPass — an online subscription content package — free to its broadband customers' virtual doorsteps.

CNN NewsPass, which offers updates and video clips of news, sports, financial and business reports, was added to the AOL Broadband portal last week at no extra charge. The service is offered at to other Internet users for $4.95 each month.

Adding more broadband news content now is not exactly bad timing, given high interest in the looming war with Iraq, the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia
on Feb. 1 and the flagging economy, said AOL Broadband vice president of programming Carlos Silva.

"It's unbelievable — every day in the last week it has been great to have that content flowing in to our members," Silva said in an interview last week. "Things are hopping in news."

While it might seem timely, the addition is really part of the new broadband mission AOL undertook in December, when the company pledged to put its emphasis back on content.

A recent AOL study showed more than 57 percent of AOL Broadband users log on each day to check headline news, second only to e-mail in terms of use. It also showed 70 percent of AOL Broadband members already access for news.

"Really, it's about building this foundation that we really haven't had, and I think news is at the core of that foundation," Silva said.

Habit forming?

A central strategy to that effort is to come up with content that will become a daily habit for AOL Broadband users, rather than simply rely on splashy, one-time Webcast events.

"Every single day, our members will have great content available from the best news brand in the business," Silva said. "And if it's there, then we have the opportunity to promote the other kinds of exclusive and great content that's on broadband, because they are coming back every day for their news."

AOL also is adding its own content sidebar, with exclusive chats with CNN TV personalities and online polls covering news subjects.

"I think we are also adding some value, because we are taking the CNN NewsPass as a service, but we are also wrapping community and our users around it," Silva said.

The CNN deal draws upon the ISP's content family within parent AOL Time Warner Inc., and that avenue will be mined for more content in the near future, Silva said — particularly for added TV and movie-related content. But AOL Broadband's lineup won't just be coming from within the multimedia giant.

"I think you'll see it coming from all over. But certainly, where we were the leaders, we probably weren't doing as good of a job as a family coming together, and now I think everybody has really put their heads down hard," Silva said. "But in some areas, we actually will go outside the family, in the case of weather and some of the sports stuff that you really need to go to the leagues and some of the other leaders in sports to get."