Dozens of old television shows including "Welcome Back Kotter" will be available online and free-of-charge under a deal between America Online Inc. and Warner Bros.
In the latest alternative to traditional TV viewing, a new broadband network called In2TV will be launched in early 2006 by AOL and Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution, the companies said Monday.
Besides the TV shows, In2TV will include games, polls and other interactive features.
"Welcome Back Kotter," "Sisters" and "Growing Pains" are among the 30 series to be offered initially as Internet streamcasts. They will be grouped on channels by genre, including comedy, drama, animation, sci-fi and horror, action-adventure and "vintage TV."
In2TV plans to offer more than 100 TV series and at least 300 episodes per month in the first year, the companies said.
The shows will be delivered through AOL Video on Demand, AOL Video Search and AOL Television. At the time of launch, the programs will be available exclusively on AOL and will not be in syndication on TV, AOL official said.
Some of the shows will be offered in a new video format, "AOL Hi-Q," that AOL promises will offer DVD quality on a full computer screen. Users will be directed to a plug-in to install the technology on their computer.
The shows will contain two minutes of advertising per half hour, streamed before and after the shows, and also at the traditional commercial breaks when the show aired on TV. Sponsorships and banners will also be sold, according to AOL.
In2TV will offer an early test of whether consumers can be persuaded to watch longer-form programming on their computer screens. Currently, much successful Internet programming runs only a few minutes long on the theory that many viewers don't have the patience to sit through longer shows at their desktop or laptop.
About 35 million U.S. homes now have broadband access, compared to 110 million homes with TV. About half of those Internet users say they have watched video online, according to industry analysts.
Several alternates to traditional TV viewing have been announced in recent weeks, including a deal between Apple Computer Inc. and Walt Disney Co. that makes reruns of "Lost" and other programs available as individual $1.99 downloads for viewing on computers or video-capable iPods.
CBS and NBC have also decided to allow video-on-demand of some of their primetime shows.