NBC Enters Pact With Intel For Enhanced Digital TV

Semiconductor maker Intel Corp. (INTC - news) and broadcaster NBC will work together on enhanced digital television programming that would include interactive features, the companies said on Monday. The multiyear pact with the world's largest computer chip maker will mark NBC's first collaboration in the digital television arena. The General Electric Co. unit is preparing to begin digital high-definition TV (HDTV) broadcasting in the autumn. HDTV features sharper pictures than conventional analogue television.

With NBC's enhanced digital programming, viewers will also have the option of checking an electronic program guide, chatting, sending electronic greeting cards or taking interactive quizzes. Those extras will help make the HDTV sets and their price tags -- now well into four figures -- more attractive for consumers, said NBC spokesman Jeff DeMarrais. The new programming will ``speed the marketplace into going out and getting the HDTV sets,'' he said in a telephone interview from Las Vegas.

The Intel-NBC pact was announced in Las Vegas as part of the National Association of Broadcasters convention. In addition to the clearer picture, HDTV also can pack much more information into digital form, allowing the interactive features that NBC is planning. U.S. television networks are scheduled to begin HDTV broadcasting in 30 U.S. cities by the end of the year. NBC is scheduled to make the enhanced digital TV programming available to viewers in the fall of 1999.

The network plans an average of three hours a week in enhanced broadcasting content for NBC's Saturday morning block of teenage programming and NBC sports programs. There also will be some enhanced broadcasting each day during prime time. he enhanced content will be available to viewers using a personal computer with a digital TV function, a digital television set or a powerful set top box that can tune in the new digital signals. Included in the items that Intel will license to NBC are the software, tools and the applications to create and insert the enhanced portions of the digital broadcast into NBC's existing programming. NBC's enhanced content will be developed by the broadcaster's interactive television production group.


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