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Google, Comcast May Buy Minority Stakes In AOL

Google Inc. and Comcast Corp. are reportedly in negotiations with Time Warner Inc., as the two companies consider buying minority stakes in the Internet content giant.
Google Inc. and Comcast Corp. are in negotiations with Time Warner Inc. to buy a minority stake in America Online Inc., a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The two companies are only interested in AOL's Web portal, and not its dial-up subscription service, which has been steadily losing subscribers as an increasing number of people switch to low-priced broadband service, The Wall Street Journal said. Google and Comcast hope that owning a piece of AOL would make it possible to tie into its content and help drive traffic to their online services, which would mean more exposure for advertisements.

AOL, a unit of Time Warner, has made video entertainment a focus of its portal, which officially launched out of beta last month. The company's biggest potential advantage over rivals, such as Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN, is in unique content, according to some experts.

The portal, for example, develops its own music videos through its online service Music Sessions and Music Live, and it's parent company Time Warner could work with its subsidiary one day to develop more original content.

For Google and Comcast, working closer with AOL would put them in a better position in competing with Yahoo, which is the market leader in the entertainment portal market, the newspaper said.

How closely aligned search-engine Google and cable operator Comcast are in the negotiations isn't clear, the newspaper said, quoting people familiar with the matter. It's possible Google could decide to pursue AOL alone.

Google has a close relationship with AOL, providing search technology and sharing advertising revenue that comes from AOL customers. The arrangement last year generated $300 million for AOL, the Journal said.

The negotiations complicate matters for Microsoft, which the newspaper said has been in talks for months to combine its Internet operations with AOL.

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