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Widespread Deployment of Interactive TV Gains Steam With Fall Lineup Of Enhanced Programming for WebTV Plus and WebTV for Windows

Cable TV Operators Showcase Interactive Television With New Programming

CHICAGO - June 14, 1999 - Today at Cable '99, the National Cable Television Association show, Microsoft Corp. announced cross-industry support for providing interactive cable television programming to consumers via WebTV Plus Internet Receivers and the WebTV for Windows feature of the Windows 98 operating system. Three top entertainment-based cable TV channels have announced their summer and fall interactive programming lineups, which range from major sporting events such as "HBO World Championship Boxing" to educational shows geared toward the entire family such as "Savage Earth." In addition, two leading cable channels announced they are extending their interactive television offering with enhanced programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Microsoft, along with HBO, Discovery Communications Inc., HGTV (Home and Garden Television), MSNBC and the Weather Channel, recognizes the benefits of providing interactive television content to its viewers. With the extent of new and value-added content, television viewers now have a broader choice of interactive programs that entertain, educate and inform them beyond traditional television.

"The level of support we are seeing from cable programmers demonstrates that they are committed to developing a deeper relationship with their viewers," said Joe Poletto, vice president, Network Media Group, WebTV Networks Inc. "This commitment and the enthusiastic consumer response we've received on ITV programming to date are the driving forces behind making ITV a success."

Network Shows Go Interactive in Summer and Fall

  • HBO. HBO will enhance major sporting events and shows airing on the cable network this summer and fall, including "Inside the NFL" and "HBO World Championship Boxing," as well as children's programming such as "Crashbox."
  • The Discovery Channel and TLC. Discovery will produce five interactive shows, including two of its top-five-rated shows - "Wild Discovery" and "On the Inside," which allows viewers to go behind the scenes where only Discovery ventures. TLC will enhance the upcoming fall special "Savage Earth."
  • HGTV. Beginning in July, HGTV will enhance its "Restore America" segments. The series profiles the best residential and community restoration projects in all 50 states. In addition, HGTV will launch the interactive "Do It Yourself" (DIY) network, a simultaneous on-air and online channel that provides immediate access to step-by-step instructions, in-depth demonstrations and tips for the do-it-yourselfer.*

More 24x7 Interactive Programming

  • MSNBC. MSNBC will enhance its entire 24x7 cablecast with the latest in interactive programming for breaking news, "Live Vote" surveys, daily chats and customized information. Interactive programming produced specifically for the enhanced television viewing experience will bring users in-depth and up-to-the-minute coverage. Users of the enhanced television programming can also access interactive advertising and transact online while watching MSNBC. MSNBC, a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC, is bringing some of the best converged content and advertising to consumers.
  • The Weather Channel. The Weather Channel will offer a complete interactive weather experience including trusted local weather information on-demand, rich radar and satellite maps, up-to-date weather news and lifestyle weather information. The interactive content will complement and extend the highly popular weather programming offered by The Weather Channel cable network.

"Interactive programming is fast becoming an inevitable component of the television landscape," said Van Baker, director of Consumer Market Research at Dataquest. "Companies that are investing today will no doubt be poised to be the next leaders in broadcasting, programming and Internet-related initiatives of the future."

Making Interactive Television a Reality

Content creators have begun designing the next wave of 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 the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum (ATVEF) specification. The specification, which has been available for review to adopters since February of this year, defines a standard content format that television content providers can use to develop programming enhanced with other data, such as Internet or Web content. As such, producers of interactive content can extend their existing Internet and Web investments to encompass interactive programming, which benefits broadcasters and producers by helping them to differentiate their programs and brands and in turn to rebuild, retain and create a new audience.


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