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No. of Recommendations: 52
So I was up at 5:00 this morning, went to the Fool boards, and lazily paged through the past 24 hours or so's posts for AOL and ATHM (among others.) Actually passed right by the news blurb on AOL's opening splash screen. Gotta get that coffee workin' a little sooner.

So, here are a few things I think I think.

* I think I won't try to predict the short term impact of this merger on the stock price. OK, I lied. I cancelled a limit order for ATHM that I've had standing at a well below market price, waiting for a bad (good) bounce.

* I think that AOL is sincere about opening the cable pipe to other ISPs. Their multi-billion dollar deal with Hughes allows other ISPs on the satellite. Their multi-billion dollar deal with WorldCom transport allowed them to handle other ISPs, including one of their own. AOL has also believed there is value in the "infrastructure" play (even as they divested that division at a handsome profit), and TWX's coax doesn't care whose bits it carries, as long as they're paid for.

* On the other hand, I think AOL will price the "carriage" rate close enough that other competing ISPs will be forced to compete on quality and content, not on price. And I think that AOL, especially with the addition of Time Warner content, wins handily.

* I think we won't be hearing much about Free ISPs, at least for a day or two.

* I think that AOL's "Any AOL Time Warner cable subscriber will have a choice of ISPs, but any AT&T cable subscriber won't" will bring the Open Access debate into stark focus. And is not likely to make those other cable subscribers, or those other franchising authorities very happy.

* I think I'm surprised that one of the largest content companies on the planet is changing its name, adding the name of a company that's been around for less than 10 years, and will be trading under the AOL symbol. Whew! Symbolic, I know, but still...

* I think Mike Armstrong has to call Steve Case if he wants to talk about a telephony deal for AT&T.

* But I think there won't be much talk of a Road Runner / At Home Merger from the ATHM bulls anymore. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised to hear of such discussions between Steve and Mike. Well, I'd be surprised if I heard about them, just not that they might actually happen.

* I think Professor Hirschey will be agog, but still skeptical. Time Warner also doesn't have earnings. It's wayyyy overvalued, I guess.

* I think this augurs "interesting" for some of AOL's content deals. I'm thinking specifically of CBS, Marketwatch, Sportsline, etc. Does the addition of CNN and its various brands mean AOL won't want to have a deal with CBS? And assuming that AOL provides CNN news, how does this affect the competitive landscape vis-a-vis MSNBC, which surpassed CNN in pageviews earlier this year?

* Or looked at another way, I think saw a growing relationship between CBS and AOL, which might have translated into an even better one with the addition of the vast Viacom empire. Now, I think I'm not so sure. Does CBS/Viacom migrate to Yahoo!?

* I think Time Warner's "content everywhere" pattern of growth for the past decade falls in nicely with "AOL anywhere". Don't you?

* I think this fills a gigantic void in Time Warner's media empire. They're huge in cable, publishing, movies, video. They folded the Pathfinder portal for lack of interest. A deficiency rather nicely filled, wouldn't you say? Levin ain't so dumb.

* And I think this fills a void in the AOL arsenal, specifically, cable. Not complete coverage, of course, but the writing is on the wall.

* I also think that AOL will continue to push for DSL and other access, perhaps even on an accelerated basis, and that the phone companies may at last begin to understand the value of a "branded" access partner. Then again, maybe not. But even though Time Warner owns cable lines, Levin and Case obviously understand the value of reaching end consumers in any way possible, and they are unlikely to throttle back other initiatives just to try to assist the (subsidiary) coax folks.

* I think it takes AOL out of the "pure internet" play and grounds it in a much larger entity, some of which can't possibly match the growth metrics of the internet industry. That might not be to some investors' liking.

* I think that might make acquisitions more difficult. Who gets the cash? How valuable is an addition to the assumed dilution an acquisition would bring? Adding MapQuest brings a different value to "pure" AOL than it may to the "Time" or "Warner" part of the AOL-Time-Warner business, for example.

* But I think it's good. I think it's possibly great. Doesn't mean I think it'll help the stock price, as we've seen what sometimes happens (Lycos/Diller) when internet meets real world. Ouch!

I think I better stop thinking so hard. You too, probably.
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