America Online (NYSE: AOL) announced today that its AOL Germany service has surpassed one million members, making it the first AOL service outside of the United States to break the mark.
The company said that its German service broke the mark in roughly half the time its U.S. service did — five years compared to nine. AOL membership in America reached the milestone figure in 1994.
AOL said that its new pricing plan in Germany should help fuel growth of the service. On October 1st, AOL Germany introduced a flat monthly rate of 9.90 Deutsche Marks (DEM), which offers unlimited Internet access and lower telephone fees.
“We are very proud that AOL Germany has become the first AOL service outside the U.S. to surpass one million members,” said AOL Europe CEO Andreas Schmidt. “We are confident that our new fixed-rate pricing plan, as well as the rollout of our next generation AOL 5.0, is making AOL more attractive than ever to German consumers.
The company has hired tennis star Boris Becker — known as “Boom Boom” and wildly popular in Germany even after his retirement — as its national spokesman to lead a new advertising campaign.
Joint Venture Has Blossomed
AOL Europe is a joint venture between the Dulles, Virginia-based online giant and German media giant Bertelsmann AG, a German media conglomerate with over 600 companies and annual revenues of $18 billion (US$).
The two companies first linked up in December 1996, when Axel Springer Verlag, Germany’s largest newspaper publisher and a Bertelsmann subsidiary, took a 10 percent equity stake in AOL Europe in exchange for providing content and marketing support for the company.
Since then, AOL Europe has grown to 2.7 million members, with services in nine countries. AOL has 18 million members worldwide, 3.7 million of them outside the U.S.
New Software Launch
AOL announced the rollout of its new AOL 5.0 last week and began an aggressive mail-out campaign. The company claims that two million members have downloaded the software in two weeks.
For the first time, AOL is also making its new software available in retail stores, stocking the shelves of 5,000 retail outlets across the United States. It has also produced localized versions for international sites in Australia, Germany, Canada, France, Japan and the United Kingdom.