Internet service provider AOL has announced that it will launch a free online television network early in 2006, cleverly called In2TV.

The service will offer over 3,000 hours of archive programmes from 100 series of Warner Brothers productions in its first year.

In2TV will initially be organised in six themed channels of comedy, drama, animation, action, classic and superhero genres. It will be supported by advertising revenue, with one or two minutes of adverts within a 30-minute episode, rather than as many as eight minutes on broadcast television.

AOL and Time Warner merged in 2001, but many of the expected synergies failed to materialise amid internal politics. The current initiative apparently took over two years to pull together.

Media groups and online service providers are now rushing to offer television programmes direct to consumers over broadband networks.

Eric Frankel, president of the Warner Brothers cable distribution business told Reuters that they had looked at the rise of broadband internet services and decided to be the first to create a network that opens a new window of distribution, rather than having to go hat in hand to other cable channels.

AOL to trial Kontiki peer-to-peer system to deliver ‘DVD quality’ video
AOL has also said that it will use peer-to-peer distribution software from Kontiki to deliver what is claimed to be DVD quality video in a format it calls ‘AOL Hi-Q’.

Users will be able to view AOL Hi-Q video on demand as well as choose to have new Hi-Q videos in a particular category of interest pushed to them when they are available.

For the trial, more than 100 AOL Hi-Q videos – ranging from video game and online movie trailers to music videos – will be available from the video page on the portal.

“We are very excited to further expand on our relationship with America Online with the development of the AOL Hi-Q video format,” said Scott Sahadi, Vice President, Business Development, for Kontiki.

The choice of Kontiki software to provide legal peer-to-peer distribution represents a further endorsement of the system that is currently being used to power the BBC iMP trial and will be used in the forthcoming Sky broadband download service.