Time Warner Merger Means More Shoppers for AOL

America Online would gain direct access to 26.8 million Time Warner Cable channel viewers who are already online but not current AOL subscribers, after the proposed merger is completed, according to a study by Cyber Dialogue. This Time Warner audience is highly desirable because they spend on average more than $2,200 on Web-related purchases per year, $300 more than typical AOL users, the study found.

“AOL will benefit significantly from the merger if it can convert those valuable Time Warner Cable viewers into AOL subscribers and attract their e-commerce dollars,” said Idil Cakim, an analyst for Cyber Dialogue. “To do this, they must develop effective marketing strategies that serve consumers’ individual needs, both online and offline, creating a continuous entertainment experience for their audience.”

Cyber Dialogue also found that a AOL combined with the Time Warner cable networks are in a position to directly target 80 percent of the total online adult population. The study’s findings herald a necessary shift in overall marketing strategy away from the traditional mass-market approach to that of targeting a “new audience,” seamlessly accessible via the Internet and cable television. Inevitably, as AOL and Time Warner cable channels merge, Cyber Dialogue found the dynamics of their respective audiences will shift. Consumers who are accessible through both the Net and cable television will represent the core of the combined venture’s customer base.

“The Internet provides the new mega-media enterprise with the opportunity to speak directly to its audience, understand their preferences, and target small but valuable user groups. Meanwhile, the cable network provides a vehicle for distributing entertaining content on a mass scale,” Cakim said. “Following the acquisition, AOL/Time Warner will be well-positioned to reach, communicate, and interact with its online audience members through richer content both online and offline.”

Other Cyber Dialogue findings include:

  • AOL users who watch Time Warner cable channels are significantly more valuable than those AOL users who do not watch these channels ($2,105 average online spending per year vs. $1,463)
  • Time Warner cable viewers who visit TV-related sites but don’t subscribe to AOL comprise a more valuable user group than both the average online adult and the average AOL user ($1,903 average online spending per year vs. $1,559 and $1,521, respectively)
  • The value of online cable viewers and their tendency to visit TV-related Web sites suggests that bundling content from online and offline media can be used to target, acquire and retain these potentially lucrative interactive consumers.

The above findings are from Cyber Dialogue’s Cybercitizen Entertainment Program (CCE). Cybercitizen Entertainment consists of in-depth interviews with 1,000 Internet users and 1,000 non-users conducted quarterly.

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