It was unclear how long the discussions, which were reported earlier by the Hollywood Reporter, have been going on or whether a potential resolution is near. An AOL spokesman declined to comment and a representative for Rather couldn't be reached.
A big name like Rather could help the Time Warner business at a time when it's trying to lure more users and advertisers from other sites including Yahoo! (YHOO - Get Report) and Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) MSN. AOL also is considering placing the remaining content that's now only available to its subscribers on its free AOL.com portal. Those changes could mean the layoffs of thousands of employees, according to news reports.
AOL has long been a sore point for the investors of New York-based Time Warner. Billionaire Carl Icahn noted AOL's subpar performance during his recent push to boost the company's lagging share price. President Jeffrey Bewkes, who is seen as a potential successor to Chief Executive Richard Parsons, began overseeing AOL earlier this year.. Though AOL has seen improved advertising sales and has won kudos for events, including last year's Live 8 concerts, the unit's challenges remain daunting. Its dial-up subscribers continue to flee to faster service, and competition for advertising dollars continues to intensify. AOL and publishing were the only Time Warner units to show a decline in operating income in the first quarter. Though AOL has one of the most popular news Web sites, it relies on third parties for most of its content. Advertisers are increasingly interested in Web sites with original content that attracts a dedicated group of users, which Rather would attract.