GigaOM reports that AOL bought third-ranked social network Bebo today for $850 million.
Randy Falco, chairman and CEO of AOL, said that it gives the company a social media play, and will allow them to “leverage Platform-A across our combined global audience. This positions us to offer advertisers even greater reach and marketers significant insights into the desires and needs of consumers,” according to the report.
Blogger Om Malik wrote that the deal “also shows the schizophrenic nature of [parent company] Time Warner. Jeff Bewkes wants to get rid of AOL (and Time Warner Cable) and focus entirely on his old, Hollywood-style businesses. Earlier this week he was happy to talk about a deal with Yahoo and get rid of AOL, which is going to through a major crisis, as reported by several other outlets. And at the same time they are spending $850 million in cash on Bebo. Maybe it helps AOL become a more sexy acquisition, or a spin off candidate?”
One thing is for sure—given that Facebook and MySpace are still struggling with figuring out how to monetize their networks, this is certainly a risky move for AOL.