Henry Luce and Bob Pittman are having a little chat in the
corporate jet. Henry is looking a little discombobulated -- not so much from the speed of
this flight, but from recently rolling over so many times.
"So let me get this straight," Henry wonders.
You're going to embed advertising in the video streams, right along with the editorial
content? Whatever happened to my beloved separation of church and state?"
"It doesn't apply in the digital age," Bob
explains. He takes his role seriously as a member of the America Online-Time Warner
integration committee, and that includes blending marketing and brand-building (for a fee)
into the content. Everything is for sale.
"That's the promise of the interactive era," Bob
adds, as the patriarch ponders.
Henry wonders about all of the Time Warner marvels that
have materialized since his departure. The conversation turns quickly to Road Runner,
which has been without a president for more than a year now. How handy: Now there's no
need to hire anyone.
Best of all, Road Runner's move into Virginia has put the
high-speed gang right in AOL's backyard. Just pack them off to an AOL silo at Dulles and
put one of the young AOL millionaires in charge. That'll speed up the convergence and get
"AOL TV" into Time Warner homes faster.
Henry wonders about the legacy of long-standing business
relationships, such as the Time Warner Cable alliance with Scientific-Atlanta. Bob says
he's keeping it mind, but he has some great relationships with Sony and Philips from his
days at MTV. And anyway, that new company, Generola, might come in handy (get with it: Did
you expect to call it "Motostruments" when Motorola bought GI?).
"Hey, here's a better idea," Bob says.
"Maybe I can get our guys at Netscape to ask their friends at 3Com to whip up an 'AOL
Everywhere Palm Pilot STB.'"
"Huh?" says Henry.
Bob explains the AOL Anywhere initiative, making content
available on TV sets, handheld devices, refrigerator doors, wherever.
"You know we showed off AOL TV just a few days ago at
the Consumer Electronics Show," Bob explains. "We can put it on DirecTV -- we
own a piece of them -- and on DSL. But we don't own any phone companies -- yet."
"Well, just give AT&T a call," Henry says,
trying to be helpful but obviously not yet aware of the new phone-company setup.
"Actually, AT&T expects us to be the local carrier
for some of its phone deals," Bob thinks out loud. "But if AT&T doesn't do
open access to our liking, we'll just yank the agreement to interconnect on phone
He continued, "Maybe we'll cut a deal with that nice
Bernie Ebbers at MCI WorldCom Sprint. In fact, he's got the backbone for our Internet
business now, and I can see his new building that's going up right across the street from
my office in Dulles. I'll just stroll across the parking lot and set it up when I have a
The private jet takes a victory loop over Columbus (where a
faint QUBE insignia is still emblazoned on the scorched earth). Some of those AOL
millionaires read about QUBE in their college textbooks. The plane doesn't even have to do
a touch-and-go for Steve Ross to appear in the cabin.
"Why wasn't Levin wearing a tie for that press
conference? When did he shave his mustache?" a still-tanned Ross says. "And by
the way, can we bring back Atari?"
"Don't need it," Bob explains. "We've got
ICQ, not to mention mail."
"What about all of those other great interactive
innovations from our glorious past: Time Teletext, Pathfinder, Full Service Network?"
"What was FSN full of?" shouts a guy named Ted
from the back of the plane.
"Let's move on," Bob says excitedly. "I've
He talks about brand-building, broadband access, selling
long-distance phone service, selling games online, selling video-on-demand -- selling
anything and everything.
"Now tell us about that nice young Mr. Case,"
Henry says. "He looks like he'd make a good account executive."
"If you could afford him," Bob smiles as he heads
off into another 360-degree flip, assuring that Henry and Steve will do a few more spins
before they fully grasp what this flight is all about and where it's going.
I-Way Patrol columnist Gary Arlen once tried to borrow the
AOL corporate jet (true story).