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AOL says 'Welcome back' to old TV shows

Portal will offer free access to popular vintage TV shows via video-on-demand under a deal with Warner Bros.

America Online early next year will begin offering free access to popular vintage television shows through video-on-demand under an agreement with Warner Bros., another division of Time Warner.

The new In2TV broadband network service will include 15- and 30-second video advertisements that will be limited to a total of one to two minutes within each 30-minute episode, compared with eight minutes of ads on broadcast television, AOL said in a statement.

The service will be offered in a new DVD-quality video format called AOL Hi-Q that enables high resolution, full-screen viewing to any broadband user.

The on-demand deal, which involves about 300 shows including "Welcome Back Kotter," "Kung Fu" and "Growing Pains," will feature six channels ranging from comedy and drama to animation and science fiction. In2TV will also include interactive features such as games, quizzes, polls and trivia contests.

"This service will bring an unprecedented collection of popular TV series to a totally new platform, revolutionizing the distribution of television programming," Eric Frankel, president of Warner Bros. domestic cable distribution, said in a statement.

The move is the latest in a series of deals media companies have announced to offer alternative sources of television programming.

A week ago, NBC and CBS unveiled separate plans to make prime-time shows available commercial-free for 99 cents an episode.

In October, Disney said it would offer episodes of five popular television shows from ABC and Disney's cable network and some animated short films and music videos for $1.99 each for viewing on Apple Computer's iPod.