AOL-Time Warner Turnaround Strategy

The problem faced by Time Warner after its merger with AOL is an issue which merits discussion. The AOL-Time Warner merger in 2001 resulted in the largest media company in the world. AOL joined hands with Time Warner (TW) to create synergy between its online businesses and Warner’s media business.

Two significant factors affected the post merger company. One, the dot com bust meant adverse effect on AOL’s advertising revenues. And two, dial-up subscribers decreased thereby affecting revenues and overall profitability of AOL. Richard Parsons, the CEO and Chairman of Time Warner and Joe Miller, the CEO of AOL took steps to turnaround AOL. A key element of their turnaround strategy was to offer free content on its portal. This strategy benefited AOL in attracting more online users and advertising revenues.

When AOL began operations it soon became the leading company for-pay online subscriber service, bringing easy-to-use Internet service to more than 30 million users. AOL was mainly based on around its dial up business. With customers shifting to broadband, AOL was losing subscribers rapidly. In 2004, AOL had 20 million subscribers. The dial-up segment though profitable, was declining in revenues having lost 2.6 million subscribers in a period of one year. The share price of AOL Time Warner fell by 60% after the merger. The merger was heavily criticized from all quarters.

Growth in advertising business came with AOL establishing itself as a support service rather than an internet access provider. Seeing AOL’s success Google entered into a global advertising partnership with the AOL. Google acquired a 5% equity stake in AOL for US$ 1 billion.

To be continued…