America Online tightened its relationship with rich media company Viewpoint yesterday, licensing its source code and hiring a Viewpoint executive.
AOL paid $9 million for a source code license and permanent rights to some Viewpoint technologies. AOL also will pay Viewpoint another $1 million for future services. Sreekant Kotay, Viewpoint's senior vice president of strategy, will move to AOL as senior vice president for client products.
AOL bundled the Viewpoint player into AOL 7.0 in 2001, using it to power rich media campaigns. Viewpoint's multimedia technology mixes video, audio, 3-D and other rich media formats. About 100 million users have Viewpoint players installed on their computers, according to a recent study by Macromedia.
AOL is playing catch-up with rivals MSN and Yahoo in giving advertisers rich media options. Lisa Brown, AOL's ad sales chief since November 2002, identified rich media as an important area for the Internet service to improve its offerings.
“I think they were slow out of the gate, but I think they've caught up very quickly,” said Russell Kern, Viewpoint's vice president of business development.
AOL has run dozens of Viewpoint ad campaigns, in addition to powering new applications on AOL 9.0 Optimized, such as its SuperBuddy instant messaging icons. Recently, Ford Motor Co. ran a Viewpoint ad on the AOL welcome screen as part of its Ford F-150 push.
With rights to the source code, AOL will have more control over developing ad campaigns and new applications.