In a bid to boost its low profile in the Internet business, Toshiba has announced plans to enter into talks with AOL-Time Warner about the distribution of content in Japan.
"We have long had a strong relationship with Time Warner. Since the merger with AOL they have been emphasising their Internet business and that is one area we are certainly interested in, particularly the supply of content," said Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Omori.
The date and agenda for talks between the two companies has not yet been set, although Toshiba president Taizo Nishimuro, speaking in Santa Barbara, California, said that he wanted to meet AOL chairman Steve Case in April if possible.
Toshiba holds a 0.2% stake in Time Warner. Also, it partnered with Time Warner in launching multi-system cable operator Titus Communications in 1995. Last July Time Warner transferred its Titus shares to MediaOne International, which now holds a 60% stake in the company.
Titus, with seven service centre in the Tokyo metro area, is a leading supplier of cable TV, cable telephony and broadband Internet services to residents of Japan's largest city and its suburbs. In October its AllNet Internet service provider passed the 10,000-subscriber mark.
AOL already has a minor presence in Japan, but Toshiba plans to conduct partnership talks with the US parent company. The discussions are expected to focus on providing music, films and other Time Warner and AOL software via cable, the Internet and data broadcasts on the new digital broadcast satellite service set to begin this December.
Toshiba faces stiff competition in the crowded Japanese Internet market, where rival Sony, NEC and Fujitsu, as well as Telecom giant NTT, have already carved out substantial shares. Last week, Toshiba announced that it planned to invest 250 billion yen ($2.26 billion) into Internet-related businesses, including e-commerce, over the next three years.