Interactive Television Programming Momentum Continues With Increased Support From Key Industry Players

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 ( ) offers a unique approach to the Internet, melding technology and
    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 programming.

  • 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 ( ).

  • 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 24×7 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 24×7 interactive TV environment since July with news headlines, sports, weather and promotion information.

  • USA Networks , a USA company (Nasdaq
    ), consists of both USA Network ( and The Sci-Fi Channel ( 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 interaction.

  • The Weather Channel, leveraging the WebTV for Windows feature of Windows 98, will combine the extensive assets of, 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 service.

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 mainstream.

Toolmakers currently working on solutions such as these include the following:

  • 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 . Other planned ExtendTV programs include a music series, lifestyle programs (focusing on gardening, shopping, children, travel and sexuality), and sports programming.

  • Mixed Signals Technologies Inc. of Los Angeles, which manufactures plug-and-play hardware and software solutions for encoding interactive TV components to
    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 in.

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.

About WebTV Networks

WebTV Networks, Inc., operates the WebTV Network service and designs WebTV-based Internet terminals and receivers available from companies like Sony, Philips and Mitsubishi at consumer electronics stores nationwide. Costs start at $99 for the Internet terminals and $199 for the Internet receivers, and $19.95 or $24.95 per month respectively for the WebTV Network service. The WebTV Network service is available in the United States, Canada and Japan and has over 500,000 subscribers. WebTV Networks, Inc., based in Mountain View, Calif., is a subsidiary of Microsoft Corp.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft, WebTV and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

Related Posts