Newlyweds America Online and Time Warner promise to harness their vast resources to expand consumer choice for Internet access, entertainment and communications. To make sure the $106 billion merger d

Newlyweds America Online and Time Warner promise to harness their vast resources to expand consumer choice for Internet access, entertainment and communications. To make sure the $106 billion merger doesn't have just the opposite effect, the government has set strict limits to keep the companies from crushing the competition.



Those include a requirement that AOL must make future generations of its popular instant messaging service work with competing services.



The companies crossed their last regulatory hurdle and swiftly moved to close their deal late yesterday (Jan. 11) -- a year and a day after announcing the unprecedented combination of old and new media. European regulators cleared the deal in October, but not before pressuring Time Warner to withdraw a separate joint venture proposal with EMI Group of Britain, which would have reduced the number of major record companies in the world from five to four.



The new AOL Time Warner wasted no time in touting the benefits consumers could expect from the fusion of the nation's largest Internet provider and a global media titan. Executives said the company would break new ground in emerging technologies such as digital music, high-speed Internet access and interactive television.



"Our brands, services and technologies already touch hundreds of millions of people," said chairman Steve Case, whose company AOL serves 26 million Internet subscribers. "We will embed the AOL Time Warner experience more deeply into their everyday lives."



On the music side, Time Warner owns such venerable labels as Warner Bros. Records, Reprise, Atlantic, Elektra, and Sire. The company also owns cable networks CNN, HBO, and the Cartoon Network; magazine titles such as Time, People and Sports Illustrated; and offers movies and other programming under its Warner Bros. labels. It has a vast system of cable lines, second only to AT&T Corp.



New Chief Executive Officer Gerald Levin, said the range of businesses under the company's umbrella -- which includes movies, magazines, music and Internet services -- will "empower consumers in new and exciting ways."



(Associated Press)



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