"Hitch," "24" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" are among the movies and television shows that AOL will sell through its new video portal under deals the Internet company has forged with major Hollywood studios.
The partnerships, announced Thursday, represent AOL's latest efforts to become the destination for online video as the company tries to offset revenues it expects to lose from a recent decision to drop subscription fees for many high-speed customers.
The offerings also mark the latest experiments in online distribution as studios and TV networks try everything from showing programs for free on their Web sites to selling already-aired episodes for $1.99 each through services like Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store and Google Inc.'s video store.
The AOL deals, terms for which were not disclosed, are with News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, NBC Universal's Universal Pictures, and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. AOL LLC is a unit of Time Warner. NBC Universal is a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Vivendi Universal.
Users will be able to download selected titles from those studios for $9.99 to $19.99 each, comparable to fees at online services CinemaNow, MovieLink and Guba and the upcoming offerings through News Corp. sites. Initial titles available include "Hitch" and "Zathura" from Sony.
Although users will own the titles, meaning viewing won't be automatically disabled after a day or two, the movies can be played on only four personal computers or portable devices that support Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player technology. They may not be burned onto DVDs, a restriction that so far has limited the appeal of movie downloads.
AOL will also sell Fox television shows for $1.99 an episode. The offerings include current series such as "24," "Prison Break" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," along with classics like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Hill St. Blues." Playback will be limited to 10 computers or devices.
Older Sony hits such as "Charlie's Angels," "Starsky & Hutch," and "SWAT" will be shown for free, but with ads.
AOL already has a partnership with Warner Bros., called "In2TV," for free showings of classics like "Welcome Back Kotter," "Sisters" and "Growing Pains."
AOL has been trying to increase traffic to its ad-supported Web sites and earlier this month launched a video portal that tries to aggregate clips and full-length programs from around the Internet. Its partners are able to program a number of video-on-demand channels, and the new deals add five from Fox and two from Sony for television programs.
Shares of Time Warner rose 1 cent, to $16.55, in midday trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.