Selling AOL, one piece at a time


The trials and tribulations of AOL are quite well known. Time Warner, perhaps recognizing the inevitable is slowly but surely taking money off the table. It has sliced, diced and pocketed around $3 billion as the company transitions from an “access” to “free” model.

  • May 2004: AOL sells Japan business to eAccess for $18.6 million.
  • September 2006: AOL sells German broadband business to Telecom Italia for about $853 million.
  • September 2006: AOL sells AOL France for $365 million to Neuf Cegetel
  • October 2006: AOL UK, the broadband business sold to Carphone Warehouse for $725 million.
  • October 2006: AOL sells AOL Call center in Ogden, Utah to Teleperformance USA for an undisclosed amount.
  • December 20, 2005: Google buys 5% stake in AOL for $1 billion.
  • January 2007: AOL sells paid music service, AOL Music Now to Napster for $15 million, valuing each subscriber at $43 a subscriber. Napster’s 566,000 subscribers are valued at $328 million.

aolbynumbers.pngIt seems that 2007 will prove to be a challenging year for AOL, as Time Warner contemplates a spin-off. The page views are stagnating and even have started to show a slight dip. For now the company has managed to bring in about $2 billion in revenues every quarter. How long is that going to last? . We will find out in a couple of weeks if the so-called free model is actually working. What are the other portions of the company they can hock to others? Any suggestions?



Well they must be doing something right to get those millions of users using their email, pictures, video, AIM and many other products .. the AOL time warner Merger was 7 years back … the company is still around, selling assets but buying strategic companies, transforming itself slowly … 2 years back there was no light at the end of the tunnel but lately it feels like they are doing something right … $0.02


Hi there, today AOL has announced the acquisition of Swedish TradeDoubler, european leader in performance based marketing. What do you think about it? Maybe they’re changing their strategy, focusing more on the possible synergies between and TradeDoubler?


Hmmm… now from the inside, it looked / looks a little bit different, and not everything fits together, just because it was a sale.

So, they moved out of their Services of Australia, Hongkong, Japan, Brazil, Latin America etc. looong ago. Actually that started already somewhere in the 2001/2002 timeframe. And simply because it didn’t make sense even at that time. They only had a handful of subscribers and were burning money, with no prospect to get these markets rollin’. They simply came to late on each of these turfs to late.

Now the sale of European Access businesses is something different. Here the market has dramatically shifted. The big incumbent telco’s have started a price war, were only the big telco’s can compete. The ISPs are leaving the playing field.
TW/AOL had the choice to do a heavy investment NOW ( actually better 2 years ago ) and BUY a telco. In each of these three markets.
Or sell the Access piece as long as they still get money for it.

Now the Google deal: This simply was, from my perspective, a deal to a) calm down Mr. Icahn, and b) get an idea of how AOL is valued in the market.

The Callcenters? Well, when you move to free service AND don’t provide Access anymore, you simply need MUCH less call centers, than before. Ever heard of the Google Call Centers? The Yahoo Call Centers? Me neither. Maybe they exist. But AOL still has Call Centers outside of the US. So I think this is a normal step, when you sell/stop the part of the business, which is responsible for 90% of your Call volume.

And the MusicNow! thing? Well, that deal is so small, I wouldn’t even count this for a strategy hint.
And remember, that they additionally bought a lot of companies as well., LightningCast, That Chat Platform ( Can’t rememeber the name ), Wildseed, X-Drive and just today in the news some European Ad company they are bidding 900 Million US$ for.

My perspective is, that they indeed want to try the free, advertised-sponsored, model. I doubt, that this will work. So far only in the Video-Arena AOL is really excellent and people might want to go there. Apart of that I don’t see yet anything appaling. But who knows? In a Web 2.0 World the next KillerApp YouTube might be just a day away.

Rex Dixon

Sell it all while there is some interest. I have said for some time now, AOL is dying a slow death. Just get it over with. Yahoo would be the best candidate to buy it all, but then again, Google already has a piece. That could make for a ton of interesting squabbles.



I agree with the above poster that the 1 billion from Google likely has something to do with the upcoming interoperability of Gtalk and AIM.

Gtalk needs more users and this is a way to get it.


Aol was around 206 AD?? Didnt know the state of Utah was declared back then either. Wow…


hmm… there have been some rumors about interoperability between google talk and AIM, I wonder if ‘interoperability’ is another word for ‘sale’?

Om Malik

Well, they got Google to pay a $1 billion for whole lot of nothing. maybe there is someone out there willing to pay more for rest of it…


AOL is disappearing fast. What will they have left? A whole lot of nothing…Oh wait, thats what they had before.

Om Malik


I think the fourth quarter numbers would be very revealing. I think the disconnect between advertising revenues and page views is something that raises red flag. I am not buying it for a minute that suddenly AOL is a better advertising platform.

My inner cynic says they are putting lipstick on the pig, and looking to spin it out.

jeremy liew

The last time that AOL reported numbers its ad sales were up 45% year on year, which sounds decently healthy to me. We’ll have to wait and see what Q4 looks like when they report in a couple of quarters, to see if they continue that healthy growth trend. They have retained the rights to program (and monetize) the portal traffic from all the European businesses they sold, in addition to picking up the right to program the portals of the acquiring companies in some cases. Dips in PV may well be due to the same reason that Y!’s PVs dipped last year – switching to Ajax to improve the customer experience.

Its fun and fasionable to rip on AOL, but I think the work that Miller and his team did to refocus the business on a media model is really starting to bear fruit. Its a shame that he won’t be there to enjoy it.

Disclaimer: Although I was Miller’s chief of staff at AOL in 2002-2003, I don’t have any insider insight into the company any more

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