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AOL touts new broadband pacts

America Online has baseball and radio on its mind as it heats up efforts to entice its dial-up subscribers to high-speed Internet access.

    America Online on Tuesday unveiled new broadband partnerships in the campaign to entice its dial-up subscribers to high-speed Internet access.

    The online subsidiary of AOL Time Warner announced a new agreement with Major League Baseball's MLB Advanced Media that will provide AOL broadband subscribers with access to a variety of video and audio programs.

    Separately, the company teamed up with Infinity Broadcasting to allow AOL users to tap into at least five Infinity stations that will be streamed over AOL's online radio service, known as Radio@Network.

    AOL's strategy now emphasizes offering new features geared toward broadband users, in a quest to harness Internet users' growing enthusiasm for high-speed services that enable streaming audio and video over the Web.

    After years of stalled efforts to promote Webcasting as a key Internet technology, the tide seems to have turned because of improvements in broadcast quality and reliability. Consumers are increasingly willing to splurge for broadband service to connect to streaming online content. In addition, people have begun to turn to the Web in droves to glean information about the war in Iraq, watching live coverage over a growing number of sites streaming video.

    Content companies have taken note of the interest and are now aggressively offering streaming services. For example, Major League Baseball last month said it will broadcast live video of 2003 season games via its sites.

    Under the baseball agreement announced Tuesday, AOL subscribers will have access to features such as post-game highlights, plays of the week and free MLB Radio. AOL also has deals with the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.

    The deal with Infinity calls on AOL to provide broadband services to Infinity's broadcasting sites across the United States. Infinity owns 183 stations in 22 states.