Interactive TV--what would it be, and who really wants it?

I was just reading about Microsoft’s huge losses in attempting to get in on the whole interactive-TV thing. And it just reminded me of how I simply cannot fathom

a) What the alleged interactive services would be

b) Who in the world would want them.

What sorts of things are being proposed? I saw “shopping” and “interactive sports” listed. Interactive sports? It’s called playing sports, rather than watching them. And don’t we already have QVC?

Seriously, though, I concede it might be neat to call up a baseball player’s stats at home to satisfy your idle curiosity (without having to log on to the Web on a separate device), but I know I, for one, don’t want TV viewing to be an active experience. I have enough things that require my active participation all day long. I’d like a few minutes of downtime.

Another argument I can see is getting people on-line who don’t have/won’t buy PCs, and therefore aren’t yet shopping at I guess … Seems kind of a thin proposition to me. The only interactive feature I’ve ever seen and liked on a TV was the TV Guide feature on digital cable.

Not to be too IMHO… I welcome actual info. regarding the TV execs’ notions of what they could offer, as well as any data on whether any viewers actually want such a thing.

Perhaps a live drama where different plot turns could be decided by the audience, for example a viewer jury during a courtroom show.

The fans could make coaching decisions during a sporting event. This stunt might work during a minor league or semi-pro baseball game. Bunt, hit and run, squeeze play…you decide.

As you mentioned, buying things but make it a live auction like e-bay.

Live polls during day time talk shows. Should Billy Bob stay with Lou Ann or sell the trailer?

Even more live polls. Viewers decide the winners of talent contests or beauty pageants.

Once the momentum got going, I bet it would be very popular.


Do a Google search for “Qube,” “cable” and “Columbus.”

Check out AOLTV.

Ya mean, like… say… American Idol? :rolleyes:

I don’t use any of the shopping or banking facilities; but for sports events here it’s great. For example during Wimbledon you have a choice of watching various courts, not just the match on the “main” screen.

With the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup; if two matches are playing at the same time you have a choice on what to watch (or just keep up with the other game). It just gives you a bit more choice.

I haven’t used it but I have seen it used where you decide who did some crime & then the show posts
as it goes along who most people think did it.

Also, some game shows let you play along with the people in the show.

I don’t need the digital tv program thing because I buy only tvs that have Guide Plus, which is similar
feature, completely free.

The most obvious use would be for news and learning programs. “click here” for more info (just like in Starship Troopers the movie).

This would be very handy on TLC or Discovery or Animal Planet, and on Travel Network you could make reservations ot vacation plans based on a show, or on Food TV you could print a recipe that you just saw prepared. Ordering a CD based on MTV or VH1 video just seen, or a DVD or video based on a movie just watched.

I can think of many useful applications of interactive TV and only some of them relate directly to marketing (other than the ability to market channels with better interactive programming to advertisers).

Childrens programming could be spectacular with the ability to play Blues Clues right along with Blue or all sots of other things.

      • One possible use I read of was product placement+linking:such as, if you’re watching a show and you decide that you like something on it- say, a piece of furniture or a character’s shirt, then you just click on the item on-screen and you’ll be connected to wherever you need to be to order one from. They said they were in the process of figuring out how to get a computer to recognize the different stuff automatically, so that the stuff would all be programmed in beforehand, and it would still work, -even for a live show. - DougC

Being in the television equipment industry, I know quite a bit about interactive TV. All the ideas listed here are the same ones execs are kicking around. Of course it all boils down to money: how to charge consumers more for watching TV.

The thing that is probably going to take off first is VOD (video on demand). Where you order a pay-per-view movie and watch it right then. Kinda like having blockbuster video right in your TV.

But this is the point. It may seem unlikely to you, a seasoned web pro, but the potential market for non-PC internet access is enormous. Anyone who is intimidated by PC – or Mac – technology, or by the space/cost issues of buying a computer, is a potential target for a TV that allows them email, web surfing and so on. Video on demand could potentially put video stores out of business, or at least hurt business a lot.

Interactive sports could mean choosing the camera angle you want to see. They’ve got dozens of cameras covering the game, why not be able to choose one.

What the advertisers dream of is “point and buy”.

Watch any show, point and click on pretty much anything on the screen, and order it. There was a lot of talk of doing this with the clothes and furniture in a bunch of the daytime soaps, and for the merchandise on the game shows.

i’ve found it very useful during the world cup… i can choose which match to see… view highlights of the match if i join in late… and choose my own audio stream for commentary (options between TV and Radio commentators)… i’ve found the Radio commentators to be a lot livelier and hence more enjoyable… perhaps in the future there will be options of choosing your own language for commentary… might come in handy if i travel to germany but would still prefer my commentary in english.

there are many many benefits of such a service.

I worked for Oracle for a short time in the mid-90’s when they were supposedly going to do interactive TV. It was when Oracle was going to push their nCube based “media server”. They had acquired a company called Spinnaker, and had recasted their product into “Oracle Media Objects”, which was going to be the authoring tool. I was in a group that was supposedly architecting the services to be offered. After a while, they realized it was all smoke and mirrors at that point, and took a big giant U-turn. This was all before the emergence of the commercial internet.

We had a nice little demo, though, that involved a fashion show allowing you to click on the parading models to buy the clothes. When it was shown to Larry (Ellison, Oracle CEO), he seemed to like clicking on the models. Perhaps he wasn’t too clear on the concept of what he was “purchasing” …

People have pretty well outlined some of the attractive features - more will occur to you. The holy grail in this area is true “video on demand” - essentially, the video stores all get put out of business as you can simply order any movie you want right on your TV. That was the sort of thing Oracle was claiming the nCube server could support.

There was a lot of talk about how your TV / phone / computer was essentially going to merge into a single appliance or an integrated set of devices that knew how to talk to each other. I may have spouted that line a couple times myself. And it may happen eventually. Just not the way we thought it would.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks, of course, is getting fiber to curb. It just isn’t practical on current cable bandwidth.