We’re still not all that big on suffering fools gladly, and we’re certainly not keen on suffering fools with billions of bucks to waste.
Like AOL. We previously described the doomed efforts in “convergent” television. (See the entire MogulWatch report.) TV Crossover Links kind of work. Everything else doesn’t, because overlaying the Web on a television program drives people nuts.
So it is in the increasingly-entrenched NUblog tradition of schadenfreude that we report on the first press reaction to AOLTV, the WebTV-killer by the Internet for Dummies.
Reaction to AOLTV sums up convergent television in a nutshell: Nobody wants it and it doesn’t work.
- Mike Langberg:
- “[I]t’s hard to believe AOL has much confidence in the product when the AOLTV Web site hasn’t been updated in months. As of mid-November, the site loudly promises, ‘AOLTV will be available in select markets starting in June 2000.’ ”
- “AOL expects users to pay through the nose for the privilege of owning AOLTV. Most current AOL members spend $21.95 a month, or nearly $264 a year. Those members are being asked to fork over an additional $14.95 a month, nearly $180 a year, to connect through AOLTV as well as a PC. That’s a huge amount, far more than is justified by the electronic program guide – the only part of AOLTV that isn’t duplicating what members already get through a computer.”
- “I expect many buyers will be returning AOLTV boxes in frustration when they discover the service doesn’t work with direct satellite (DSS) receivers, such as DirecTV and Dish Network.”
- “The main online menu and IM sessions are presented in semi-transparent on-screen panels superimposed on the TV picture. When you read or write E-mail, however, the TV picture is reduced to a tiny window in the upper right corner of the screen. Web pages are presented full screen, with no TV sound or picture. An AOL representative told me it’s possible to put the TV picture in a window while Web surfing by pressing the Info button on either remote, but that’s an undocumented feature not mentioned in the AOLTV instruction manual.”
- Jared Sandberg: “AOLTV papers an electronic menu over half the television picture. Dive deeper into certain features of that menu to, say, use AOL’s chat rooms, and the TV picture is reduced to roughly one-fifth its original size.... Shrinking the picture has some TV networks up in arms. They fret that it dilutes the impact of their shows and allows too many distractions on the rest of the screen. Some network executives say that advertisers will be equally frustrated. ‘If Chrysler is paying for 100 percent of the screen,’ says Eric Shanks, vice president of enhanced programming at Fox Television, ‘they should get what they paid for.’ ”
AOLTV is a turkey. We hope it becomes a very-well--known turkey so as to scare off competitors with similarly limited imaginations and similarly limited grasp of reality. We need a lot of things online, but TV isn’t one of them. We need a lot of things in TV, but the Web isn’t one of them.
Posted on 2000-11-29