Tracey Ullman and Allan McKeown Co-Emcee Second Annual Interactive TV Pitch Competition, Sponsored by Microsoft TV, at NATPE 2001

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 12, 2001 — What will the future of television look like? A panel of television industry judges and audience members will find out during the second annual Interactive TV Pitch competition Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2001, at NATPE’s – the alliance of media content professionals – 38th annual conference and exhibition. The conference will take place from Jan. 22 to 25 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The event, sponsored by Microsoft TV, is modeled after NATPE’s “Pitch Me!” event. Fifteen contestants each will have 60 seconds to pitch their ideas to a panel of distinguished industry decision-makers and two minutes to answer a few tough questions. The best pitch could be the next great interactive television concept, and Microsoft TV and NATPE will help the contest winner meet the right people to possibly make the concept a reality. Co-emceeing the event for the first time will be the husband-and-wife team of actress Tracey Ullman and TV producer Allan McKeown.

Interactive TV Pitch is open to all NATPE attendees.* The contest will be held at the Las Vegas Hilton adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Official rules for the contest can be found on the NATPE Web site at under the conference schedule, and the Microsoft TV Web site at .

Interactive TV Pitch participants will be chosen at a prescreening event to be held from 4-5:30 p.m. Jan. 23 in the Hilton’s Ballroom B.

Prescreening participants will have 60 seconds to pitch their concept to the judges. The prescreening judges will select 15 finalists to go on to the official contest. To participate in the prescreening, NATPE attendees must sign up in the Hilton’s Ballroom B between 3:15-3:45 p.m. that day. Prescreening participants must show their NATPE badges or day passes and will be assigned a number on a first-come, first-served basis.

The finalists will compete in the official Interactive TV Pitch competition to be held from 6:30-8 p.m. in Hilton Pavilions 9 through 11. At the official competition, the 15 finalists will have three minutes to pitch their ideas to a new panel of judges that includes leading Hollywood development, production and broadband executives.

The winner will receive the Interactive TV Pitch award and a two-day trip to Los Angeles to meet with top industry executives, possibly to land a development deal for the next hot interactive TV property.

It is not guaranteed that any Interactive TV Pitch concept will proceed into prototype, pilot or any future phase of development, but Microsoft TV is interested in working with the Interactive TV Pitch participants to evaluate their projects as candidates for support outside of the contest.

Cynthia Shelby-Lane of Detroit and Jonathan Block-Verk of Toronto were co-winners of last year’s Interactive TV Pitch competition. Shelby-Lane, who also won last year’s NATPE “Pitch Me!” competition, pitched a medical-themed show similar to ABC’s “Politically Incorrect.” Block-Verk pitched a home improvement game show that required contestants to come up with the best home renovation and decoration ideas within a set budget. Through “Pitch Me!,” Shelby-Lane went on to development meetings in Los Angeles, while Block-Verk landed a job with an interactive TV production company.

“Microsoft is constantly looking for ways to support the creation and development of new and exciting interactive and enhanced TV programming to support the entire industry,” said Paul Mitchell, senior group manager for Microsoft TV at Microsoft Corp. “On a larger scale, we’re making key investments and actively sponsoring content developer initiatives to support this effort. However, we also enjoy sponsoring fun and unique opportunities like this contest with NATPE. Through this, we hope to help creative people with exciting interactive TV ideas to get noticed by the TV industry.”

“NATPE has always been about the content, no matter what the platform,” said Bruce Johansen, president and CEO of NATPE. “Interactive TV is one of the hot platforms under discussion right now, and that’s why this event is so important. It provides the ideal setting in which to define, explore and inspire exciting new concepts for interactive TV among the leaders in the field, especially our sponsor Microsoft TV, and those talented creators bold enough to try something different.”

Judges for this year’s contest are Geoffrey Darby, president of production, Oxygen Media; Marlin Davis, chairman and CEO, Screamingly Different Entertainment; Genessa Krasnow, creative strategist, Microsoft TV; and Ken Locker, senior vice president for enterprises and media, Comedy Central. The prescreening judges are Ramon Chen, vice president for worldwide marketing, MetaTV; and Cindy Kelly, executive director of the Advanced TV Forum.

The judging criteria for the contest cover seven major categories:

Use of interactivity. Interactivity must actually change and enhance the viewing experience. For example, in November CBS Television and the Microsoft WebTV service began delivering interactive telecasts of college football games. The programming includes live polling and access to team statistics and player profiles, features that increase audience involvement.

Feasibility. Interactive TV provides a wealth of opportunities, but the industry still is being formed. Contestants must base their ideas on the tools and resources available today and demonstrated through premier interactive TV services such as the WebTV service and the UltimateTV service.

Style and delivery. The judges are looking for a fine-tuned, tight pitch that has finesse and pizzazz. Not only must contestants be able to convey the show concept and interactive elements in three minutes, they need to make it entertaining and compelling.

Use of TV. Interactive TV is not simply about tying television programming to the Web. It’s about blending the best content, tools and technology to create new and compelling viewing experiences. This could mean adding data to an existing broadcast, creating a new genre of television or redefining the relationship a viewer has with the programmer.

High concept. The next big ideas often are the simplest and most elegant ideas. For example, contestants should think of how concepts for big hit films such as “Pretty Woman” or “Die Hard” can be described and summed up in one sentence when planning their pitches.

Revenue potential. Interactive TV provides new ways for cable and satellite broadcasters to tap into revenue opportunities, such as a travel show that links to airline and hotel information, or technology that allows a viewer to get purchasing information on a sweater worn by a TV show’s star.

Freshness. The judges are looking for new and innovative ideas.


The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) is a global alliance of business professionals engaged in the creation, development and distribution of content as well as advertising and financial activities. NATPE is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to facilitating the continued growth and convergence of all content across all distribution platforms. Each January, NATPE stages the largest and most comprehensive program marketplace, drawing more than 20,000 attendees for four days of focused business interactions. For more information on the 38th annual NATPE Conference and Exhibition, visit .

About the Microsoft TV Platform

The Microsoft TV platform is a comprehensive, standards-based, client and server software solution that enables network operators to enhance the TV experience for their viewers and subscribers. The software platform creates significant new economic opportunities for network operators and the suppliers of programming, hardware and software in the TV industry worldwide. Microsoft TV is backed by the technical expertise, support and broad third-party developer community that Microsoft is known for. The platform makes it cost-effective for network operators to deploy new enhanced TV services on first-generation digital set-top boxes as well as the new generation of advanced set-top boxes and entertainment appliances now emerging.

Microsoft TV products include Microsoft TV Basic Digital and Microsoft TV Advanced software for set-top boxes and TV-based devices, and Microsoft TV Server and Microsoft TV Access Channel Server for providing enhanced TV services through the network operators’ head end. As an extension of the Microsoft TV platform, Microsoft TV Technologies will provide broadcast-rich services and functions within future generations of the Microsoft Windows operating system, paving the way for enhanced TV services on personal computers and other computing devices. Windows Media TM technologies are an integral component of Microsoft TV Advanced.

Microsoft TV has been designed to support worldwide digital TV broadcast standards, including digital video broadcasting (DVB), Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) and ARIB. It also supports commonly used Internet standards such as HTML, JavaScript and Dynamic HTML, as well as all interactive content authored according to the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum (ATVEF) specification. More information about Microsoft TV and Microsoft TV Technologies can be found at .

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software – any time, any place and on any device.

* Only open to registered attendees of NATPE 2001. Full contest rules are available at and

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

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

For more information, press only:

For Microsoft: Microsoft TV team at Shandwick International, (425) 452-5400, [email protected]

For NATPE: Alison Hill, CurrentPR, (714) 444-9731, [email protected]

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft TV, please visit the Microsoft Web page at or the Microsoft TV Web page at .

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