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June 24th, 2000

The AOL Time Warner merger must be stopped.

Yesterday news.com reported that AOL and Time Warner shareholders agreed to merge, putting a capstone on the announcements of the past few months that sent everyone into shock.

When I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe that AOL – the butt of millions of jokes, supplier of CD coasters to all Americans – would have a chance at buying out a media conglomerate. But it was true. I was flabbergasted then, as I am now. The possible company AOLTW (ugly acronym!) would simply have too much control over the media. Period.

AOLTW will have a foothold in every single media outlet except for newspapers, but people have been calling newspapers dead for about 20 years anyway, so I wouldn’t expect AOLTW to go there. What we might have is the most cross-pollination and dilution of brands in American history. You might be able to get a special Time version of AOL that will allow you to access content only with a Time Warner Cable branded Netscape browser on AOL DSL lines. They control the browser (questionable quality and all), the connection, the content, but most importantly, the experience. AOLTW could forever change how we see the net. Or, if not "us", then all sorts of new people.

I’m all for new people getting on the net, but what happens when you can’t access, say, the site for Prodigy because they compete with AOL for net access? It might be done. Or, the site will be rendered so horribly that you can’t help but not look (stealing a page out of Microsoft’s playbook).

Here is a brief list of the properties that AOLTW will own:

America Online
CompuServe
ICQ
Netscape
Winamp
Spinner.com
MovieFone
AOL Instant Messenger
Shoutcast
WB Network
HBO
Warner Bros. Records
Magazines: Time, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, People
Looney Tunes
Time Warner Cable

I can just picture Foghorn Leghorn pitching a specially-branded version of Netscape…. -pm

Posted in Consumer Commentary

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