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AOL tags TV exec as broadband head

The appointment of entertainment industry veteran Shawn Hardin comes at a critical time in AOL's broadband efforts. His focus will be on content related to high-speed connections.

America Online on Monday named former NBC executive Shawn Hardin to oversee broadband programming on its flagship service.

Hardin will become senior vice president of product and programming for AOL Broadband, and will report to division president Lisa Hook. Besides managing content programming, Hardin will also develop new types of content and applications for people connecting to AOL on a high-speed connection.

Hardin previously served as chief product officer at the now-defunct NBCi. He was also NBC's vice president of digital productions and has spent his career in the entertainment industry.

The appointment comes at a key time in AOL's broadband efforts. Over the past few months, AOL, a division of AOL Time Warner, has been criticized by investors and Wall Street for its slower-than-expected pace in adding new broadband customers.

One of the cornerstones of the merger between AOL and Time Warner was the combined company's ability to sell high-speed AOL service over its cable network. The company has claimed that the broadband pipe into the home would open the door for AOL Time Warner to sell other types of content services for additional fees, such as music downloads, multimedia clips and eventually home networking services.

AOL Time Warner Chief Operating Officer Bob Pittman has said the company could charge up to $159 a month per household for selling broadband content and other services. However, the slower-than-expected rate of broadband additions has caused many investors eager for signs of synergy in the company to dampen their enthusiasm for AOL Time Warner. On top of that, the AOL division recently posted declines in its online advertising revenue, which has helped to drop AOL Time Warner's stock to its 52-week low.