AOL (NYSE: AOL) announced on Monday that it has made its new video service, HuffPost Live, available to customers. The company is betting big on the launch, having hired 100 individuals for this particular segment. HuffPost Live differentiates itself from other video providers by generating live streaming content for 12 hours a day and provides a social viewing interface. AOL’s Huffington Post primarily competes for traffic with other content providers such as News Corp (NASDAQ:NWS) and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO).
With this new offering, AOL is seeking to disrupt the news provider space as it tries to directly compete with news networks such as CNN and Fox News. The HuffPost Live site does not provide content to its users in a traditional fashion, but rather adds a social element to the service which makes it innovative. While videos are offered on the left side of the screen, the interface reserves about half of the screen’s total space to comments where users watching a telecast can start debating directly. If the social element is a hit, AOL could see a set of users who come to the site primarily for the public debate that ensues during a news telecast. Since this feature is a unique offering among news sites, we could see users prefer this medium of news consumption over classic networks due to the user engagement involved.
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We think HuffPost Live’s social platform has the potential to be a game changer for the industry as we expect the new platform to boost user participation. While users can easily tweet about a TV show presently, they cannot engage with other users in the context of a debate. The public debate aspect of the offering could be a hit, especially during the polarizing presidential election later this year. If the new HuffPost Live platform can draw more users to its website and make them stick to AOL properties, we could see an upside to the Trefis price estimate.
We currently have a $29 price estimate for AOL, which is approximately 15% below the current market price.