Interactive Television Programming Momentum Continues With Increased Support
From Key Industry Players
Programming Pioneers Continue Building Interactive TV Foundation
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Dec. 2, 1998 - - At the 1998 Western Cable Show,
Microsoft Corp. today announced its ongoing work with industry leaders in
broadcast, production and interactive tools development in the creation and
adoption of interactive television programming. The continued endorsement of
interactive programming by these industries will help make it a mainstream
television feature in the future.
"Content and tool providers are seeing the benefit of developing
interactive programming today as part of an early effort to explore potential
digital applications," said Steve Guggenheimer, group product manager,
digital television, Microsoft. "One key benefit of interactive programming
technology is that it enables broadcasters and producers to deliver new forms of
entertainment and information to consumers."
Viewers can selectively engage with interactive programming on multiple
levels, allowing them to enjoy a richer TV-viewing experience based on their
individual preferences. Interactive programming can take the form of news, stock
quotes, headlines, weather, or additional data and content that coincides with
that of any given program. Users of the WebTV™ for Windows® feature
of the Windows 98 operating system or a receiver for the WebTV Plus Network
service can take advantage of such interactivity.
Interactive programming benefits broadcasters and producers by
differentiating their programs and helping to rebuild, retain or create a new
audience viewership. Viewers receive targeted, on-demand information,
interactive feedback loops and online transaction opportunities, which provide
them with a more direct and intimate relationship with advertisers, networks and
their favorite programs.
Content providers joining in the development of interactive programming today
include the following:
- Children's Television Workshop Online (http://www.ctw.org/) offers a unique approach to
the Internet, melding technology and "edutainment" to bring families
together to learn and have fun. This fall, CTW Online unveiled an experimental
episode of Sesame Street on WebTV, showcasing truly interactive edutainment
- E! Entertainment Television continues to innovate in the interactive
programming space by enhancing telecasts of "Coming Attractions," its
weekly program showcasing trailers and movie information. This programming
allows viewers to simultaneously watch "Coming Attractions" and access
related E! Online content, all on the same screen. The network also plans to
enhance original programming with Interactive TV (ITV) Links, allowing E!
viewers direct access to E! Online (http://www.eonline.com/).
- KCTS-TV Seattle, the largest public television station in the Pacific
Northwest and a leader in the implementation of advanced television
technologies, has developed a 24x7 interactive TV environment that was launched
in May, as well as enhancements for its "Buffett and Gates on Success"
special, airing on PBS stations in January 1999.
- KING 5 Seattle's NBC affiliate, owned by the A.H. Belo Corp., has been
broadcasting its 24x7 interactive TV environment since July with news headlines,
sports, weather and promotion information.
- USA Networks, a USA company (Nasdaq "USAI"), consists of both
USA Network (www.usanetwork.com) and The Sci-Fi Channel (www.scifi.com).
Dedicated to creating innovative and original online content, USA Networks' new
technology division has embraced the idea of enhanced TV programming. The
division is currently working closely with Web TV to create both show-specific
enhancements, as well as general channel navigation and
- The Weather Channel, leveraging the WebTV for Windows feature of Windows
98, will combine the extensive assets of weather.com, the leading provider of
weather information on the Web, with the reach and strength of The Weather
Channel Cable Network, the only 24-hour national weather network, which is seen
in over 72 million homes. This combined product will offer cable TV subscribers
instant access to a comprehensive weather news and information
Tools and Technology
Making these programming strides possible are toolmakers who provide
interactive television programming solutions. Their newly developed technologies
enable broadcast providers to combine data such as text and graphics with the
actual broadcast signal. Broadcast producers now can create more dynamic,
compelling programs and help move interactive television programs into the
Toolmakers currently working on solutions such as these include the
- Digital Renaissance Inc., a Toronto, Canada-based company whose T.A.G.
authoring technology allows producers to create relationships between programs
and Web assets, including linking end users to interactive Web content during a
program. T.A.G. is currently being used to produce ExtendTV shows, such as the
first-of-its-kind, cross-media cooking show that can be seen by visiting the
Dish It Out site at http://www.dish-it-out.com/. Other
planned ExtendTV programs include a music series, lifestyle programs (focusing
on gardening, shopping, children, travel and sexuality), and sports
- Mixed Signals Technologies Inc. of Los Angeles, which manufactures
plug-and-play hardware and software solutions for encoding interactive TV
live broadcasts or tape and is a leading Internet design
agency and content provider developing advanced online support for interactive
TV programming. Mixed Signals worked exclusively with KCTS-TV Seattle and the
Intris Public Network to produce "Buffet and Gates on Success," a
one-hour interactive TV program featuring a compelling Q&A session between
Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and students from the University of Washington
business school, which is scheduled to air nationwide in January. Mixed Signals'
hardware and software solution was used to produce and encode the interactive
data, and the company worked closely with KCTS-TV and the Intris network to
develop the program's interactive content. Using the Mixed Signals TV Link
Creator bundle, KCTS-TV and the Intris network are now able to independently
produce interactive programming for their viewers.
- VITAC, a leader in the captioning industry, with facilities in
Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Tampa, Fla. and Washington, D.C., which provides
captioning services and Interactive TV Links to syndication, television network,
cable, video, industrial, governmental and educational program suppliers. In
November, VITAC made it possible for those watching election coverage on NBC to
receive simultaneous expanded, up-to-date news on the Internet. VITAC provided
live captioning and live ITV Links as the election results came
The Future of Interactive Television
In the near future, content creators will be able to design enhanced
programming that may be delivered over any form of television transport (analog
or digital, cable, or satellite) to all types of broadcast receivers that comply
with a proposed specification by the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum
(ATVEF). Broad industry adoption of the ATVEF specification will enable
television viewers to enjoy interactive television programming on a wide variety
of compliant receivers and accelerate the market for ITV products and services.
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