Right now all the players vying for AOL, aside from current owner Time-Warner, are primarily online portals in some sense of the word. Both Microsoft and Google are interested in AOL because of the potential for ad revenue generated through search. Improving AOLs search – or at least bringing the company in-house – if vitally important to to both companies as they seek to be the biggest player in the search game.
But why aren’t any media companies getting in on the bidding? Both AOL and Yahoo have had some measure of success as media providers, either through original content or TV shows that have been repurposed from cable and broadcast networks. AOL could potentially be a powerful distribution method for on-demand viewing considering the rise in broadband in homes. If it could draw people to its site as a waypoint on the road to finding a new or old show that would have a 10 or 15-second commercial attached to the front it. That way ad revenue is maintained or even grown while serving content to the audience on their own schedule. By ignoring AOL it seems that content producers could be ignoring an opportunity.
[standard disclosure: I write for a number of Weblogs, Inc blogs. WIN is owned by AOL.]