AOL's Huff Post to launch live streaming network

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By JAKE COYLE, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — AOL and the Huffington Post are launching a live video network that aims to combine broadcast news with social media.

The Huffington Post Streaming Network was previewed Thursday at AOL's Manhattan headquarters. The online network will launch this summer, streaming news video live 12 hours a day on weekdays, expanding to 16 hours a day next year.

The Huffington Post, which AOL purchased for $315 million a year ago, is dedicating 100 employees to the project. It will be webcast from studios in New York and Los Angeles, as well a satellite studio in Washington.

Huffington Post founding editor Roy Sekoff, who will head the network, declined to say how much AOL is spending, but called it a "substantial investment." He likened the network to a "never-ending talk show" that will "mirror the Internet experience."

On Wednesday, AOL Inc. reported sharply lower fourth-quarter net income, but a rise of 10 percent in ad revenue. In shifting from the obsolete business of dial-up Internet to a contemporary media company, AOL has sought to invest in the content business, a philosophy AOL CEO Tim Armstrong reiterated Thursday.

Armstrong called the launching of the HPSN, as the network is referred to in short, to a bigger "bet" for AOL than its purchase of the Huffington Post. He called the network "a game-changing type idea."

Arianna Huffington, head of the Huffington Post Media Group, seconded that hyperbole, calling the network "truly groundbreaking."

Other digital media outlets have turned to live video to expand beyond text reporting. Most notably, The Wall Street Journal launched its first live online program in 2008 and is currently producing about four hours of live video on weekdays for WSJ.com.

Sekoff called the WSJ project "fine" but said the much-commenting Huffington Post community will differentiate its network.

"No offense to the Wall Street Journal, but I think we got more comments this month than the Wall Street Journal got last year," said Sekoff.

The Journal declined to comment.

As previewed, HPSN will rely heavily on interaction with its viewers. A computer screen of the network will have about a third of its picture dedicated to community, Facebook and Twitter commenting. Reports and interviews will be interrupted with news read off of social media, and commenters will also be invited to be guests via Skype. A clickable banner of headlines will scroll across the bottom of the screen.

"People don't want to have you tell them the news anymore," said Sekoff. "They don't want to be talked to, they want to be talked with."

AOL said it's currently reaching out to advertisers that it will sell pre-roll ads for its on-demand videos, on-screen graphics and integrated sponsorship in news segments. One demo showed a feature on the experience of driving a Lexus.

The network won't have time-scheduled programs, but overlap topics to reflect the "controlled chaos" of the Web, said Sekoff. He hopes the network will produce 30,000 clips in its first year.

The network will draw its reporting from the Huffington Post's newsroom, as well as those of other AOL properties, including Patch, Techcrunch and Engadget. It also plans to launch on devices that connect to TVs, like Roku and PlayStation sets.

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