Microsoft Proposes Standard to Link TV Networks to the Internet

LAS VEGAS, April 6, 1997 — Microsoft Corp. today proposed an open industry specification for delivering data via television broadcast networks, allowing the Internet and television networks to be connected. The combination of Internet content and television programming will allow producers to create new interactive and enhanced programs that will enable audiences to interact with a show, other viewers, merchandisers and advertisers. The proposed standard also enables high-speed “push” delivery of Internet content to home PCs.

“The combination of data and television promises an exciting new world of more interactive, enhanced television programming,” said Jim Allchin, senior vice president of the platforms group at Microsoft. “Defining standard mechanisms for transmitting data over broadcast networks is the first step in realizing that promise.”

“This standard connects the Internet to the biggest network on the planet – the television network,” said Jim Carruthers, president of Norpak Corp., the world’s largest manufacturer of VBI encoders. “Every household that receives TV broadcasts could benefit. That really delivers on the promise of digital convergence.”

Microsoft’s proposal defines the use of the television vertical blanking interval (VBI) to send data to PCs and other digital devices, such as television set-top boxes attached to broadcast networks. This specification builds upon existing Internet standards, outlining a standard way to send Internet protocol (IP) data packets over existing terrestrial broadcast networks using the IP Multicast protocol. The specification was submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as an Internet Draft, which is the first stage in the process of formally defining it as a standard.

The following are key benefits of the proposed standard definition:

  • It facilitates the creation of new types of enhanced television programming, allowing programming that can contain both data and video. Shows can be more interactive. Provides new business opportunities for broadcasters and producers, as well as new creative opportunities for scriptwriters.

  • It takes advantage of the rich variety of existing Internet content tools to create enhanced television programming.

  • It allows Internet data and software to be broadcast to the household, with information displayed on PCs or television set-top boxes. Broadcast networks promise to bring the majority of customers who are not online today into the digital world of tomorrow by simplifying access to the Internet.

  • It provides an evolutionary way to send industry-standard UDP/IP data packets over existing terrestrial broadcast networks using the television signal’s VBI. This will allow current users to benefit from the new forms of digital content being created.

The following companies have agreed to support this standard: Adaptec, Inc., Asahi National Broadcasting Company Ltd., CyberSource Inc., Gould Resources and Internet Telecommunications (GRIT), Hitatchi Ltd., INFOCITY Inc., StarSight Telecast Inc., Tseng Labs Inc., and WavePhore Inc.

For more information about this proposed standard and other related technologies and announcements, visit

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