Interactive television isn't really a new idea. Almost every television
station sends data with their signals already. Closed captioning and
descriptive audio are sent to millions of televisions everyday, but
only a small percentage of the viewers actually see (or hear) any of
it. These are a great benefit to those who can't hear or see the television,
but they are very limited in their interactivity. For many households,
the television is the most popular appliance. So, why is it less interactive
than a $10 video game?
In the 1980's, TCI and Time Warner tested
out their own versions of interactive television on some test markets.
Subscribers to their services could shop online, play games with people
across town, and do a lot of the things we dreamed an interactive TV should
offer. Most of the testers found the service very useful, but neither
TCI nor Time Warner could cover the costs of operating the service while
keeping the prices reasonable for the consumer.
Instead of using an external network connection, as these experiments
used, digital TV is going to embed interactivity inside the broadcast
signal. There is little cost in sending the interactive data out to
every viewer with a digital television.
What's on the