America Online, the Internet division of Time Warner Inc., Friday said it had landed two new partnerships with broadband providers so it could to offer low-cost, high-speed service.
AOL has signed deals with telephone companies BellSouth Corp. and AT&T Inc. to offer a bundled service that includes high-speed Internet access and exclusive programming and security features at prices that range from about $26 to $30 per month.
The company has also expanded existing agreements with Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications Inc., helping it stitch together a national network of service providers that will also sell the AOL service.
Once the Internet leader, the company that made getting online easy has lost millions of subscribers over the last few years. It has also seen Internet media companies Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. split the booming market for online advertising between them.
AOL currently has about 20.1 million U.S. subscribers, down from nearly 27 million at its high point in 2002.
Since last year, the company has focused on offering more of its music, videos and services for free on its AOL.com Web site to boost its online advertising revenue.
Industry watchers had read these moves as a sign that Time Warner had given up on its subscription business. These new deals appears to suggest otherwise.
"What we've seen from early indications is that as we've moved customers from dial-up to broadband, we've seen significant improvements in member life," Joe Redling, president of AOL access services, told Reuters in a phone interview.
"It's really a long-term play to stabilize the membership," Redling said.
Customers will be able to sign up for these deals by Jan. 30. AOL plans to launch a nationwide campaign to market the new service.