The Archive Monetization Principle

[email protected], move over. AOL In2TV is here. America Online 2.0 is going to offer the classic television shows from Time Warner archives to viewers for free. Batman cartoons…. oh yeah! I share Michael Parekh’s enthusiasm over this development. (Though I get a little miffed at all these news announcements way before the actual deployment of the service… a cheap trick to get twice the publicity! Of course there are no details on technical requirements and all that stuff!)

…It’s the first real synergistic thing I’ve seen from the AOL merger with Time Warner that goes to why I thought the merger might have been a good idea way back when…but we needed high broadband penetration…it’s been a LOOOONG five year wait…. The reruns are free! No insipid $0.99 per view on demand charge like the announcements by CBS and NBC a few days ago.

The ad-supported service is the first proof that some in the mainstream media are finally getting what I call the archive principle. Let me explain! If like me you are one of those caffeine addicts who gladly hands over a substantial portion of their hard earned dollars to Starbucks, then you are also a likely buyer of James Brown’s greatest hits or some new compilation of “old music” that pops up in cafes. Sitting in the studio, those tracks simply gather dust. At $15 a CD, they are making huge honking profits for the record companies. Music archives that are making a lot of money! Think of them as coupons you clip when you are a trustafarian.

Now what AOL In2Tv is doing is precisely that – re-treading the old television archives, and using them to make some ad dollars. How big a commercial success this is going to be? Not sure, but its something worth trying out. TVWeek says AOL is looking for $1 million a year advertising packages and expect 4 million impressions a month.

What if newspapers, magazines and others who simply let their archives sit and gather dust follow this model? How about some classic rock-and-roll radio shows from the 1960s, so some of us who missed the experience could enjoy an ad-supported nostalgia. I think archives can make a lot of money if packaged properly, as record industry has shown.

PS: I would love to see the re-runs of Miami Vice, if I could get them…