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AOL Launches Broadband TV-Video Site

Offering both paid and free downloads of TV shows, AOL Monday announced its most ambitious video venture yet.

Its new AOL Video portal, launching Aug. 4, will contain content from MTV Networks, A&E Television Networks and other cable programmers, in addition to free, ad-supported content.

The Web site (www.aolvideo.com) is AOL’s first foray into the paid-download business, which is currently dominated by Apple Computer’s iTunes Music Store. Like iTunes, AOL said it will charge $1.99 per episode for full-length Comedy Central series including Chappelle’s Show, South Park and Mind of Mencia; Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and Zoey 101; MTV’s Laguna Beach and Punk’d; and other series.

MTVN’s entire stable of cable networks is supplying content for the venture, as is A&E Networks’ flagship network and sister services The Biography Channel and The History Channel. The A&E Networks content, including Dog the Bounty Hunter, is also priced at $1.99 per episode.

AOL described its video portal launching as a “beta” version. The company said the video content will be run from an on-screen interactive program guide that will include more than 45 video-on-demand channels. Included will be paid content and free content from TNT and TBS, including TNT original movies. Also coming is other free content from television and Web producers.

Syndicated shows from Turner such as TBS’ Seinfeld are not included in the offering. AOL said it will add a new search engine to the video portal, which will deliver results from Web sites such as YouTube.com, Yahoo!, Google Video, iFilm and AtomFilms.