AOL’s Case sees mergers of technology, content

Techno-upstarts to link with brand-name old media

NEW YORK — Five years ago, said America Online topper Steve Case, “e” was simply the fifth letter in the alphabet. Now there’s e-mail and e-commerce. Five years from now, he predicted, the Internet and the so-called new economy it’s brought on will be so diffuse that we’ll have dropped the “e” and just talk about “mail” and “commerce.”


AOL topper Steve Case says soon we’ll drop the “e” from e-mail, during his keynote address at Variety/Shroder’s Big Picture Conference in New York.

The challenge now, the “second Internet revolution,” Case said at the Variety/Schroders Big Picture conference Tuesday, is to connect key devices in consumers’ homes — TV, PC, telephone and stereo.

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Variety/Schroders Big Picture conference.

“The more consumers get, the more they want,” he said. As that linkage starts to happen, Case also sees more merging of Internet companies with traditional media along the lines of AOL’s landmark deal with Time Warner early this year.

Undervalued old media

Old-media companies are undervalued, he said, which is one reason AOL was able to partner up with Time Warner and ally itself with the entertainment conglom’s stable of brands that “resonate with consumers and will for decades.”

Case sees a new crop of hybrid techno-content companies backed by brands — new ones — or, in many cases, “brands we’ve learned to trust over many decades.”

Convergence near

Case doesn’t fantasize about consumers necessarily watching movies on their computers or studying spread sheets on their TVs. You can’t turn a PC into a TV or a cell phone into a PC, even if phones can deliver e-mail.

But you can add elements of interactivity to all these devices that take into account their varied, and realistic, uses by the consumers. Why, he asked, can’t a PC be as visually compelling as a TV? And why can’t a TV be as flexible as a PC? Convergence, he promised, “is really right around the corner.”

He said he expects the Time Warner deal to close this fall and reiterated that the combined company is committed to open access and an open door to other content providers.

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