On Time Warner’s earnings call today, CEO Jeff Bewkes said the company will split AOL into two businesses: the dying access subscription business and the growing advertising network, Platform A. This comes a day after AOL picked up buy.at, an affiliate marketing network, and a few days after it bought Goowy, a Flash-based Webtop. The Goowy acquisition indicates that AOL is still committed to improving its Website (more pageviews = more advertising dollars). It is just the dial-up access business that it is finally giving up on.
Dial-up subscriptions was long AOL’s cash cow, but revenues last year were down 33 percent to $5.2 billion, from $7.8 billion in 2006. And AOL lost 3.8 million subscribers (there are still 9.8 million). Operating income was actually up a bit to $2 billion for the year because of the growth in advertising.
Bewkes mentioned that the split up would “increase AOL’s strategic options.” That is code for a sale or IPO, or both. Time Warner should sell off the access business to a private equity shop and go full-steam ahead with its IPO plans for Platform A.
(Disclosure: As a former employee of Time Warner, I own stock in the company).