March 14, 2008
| by Rebecca Day
Gone, thankfully, are the days of passive TV when we’d stay home to watch a program at its allotted time and were dependent on the scrolling cable guide to view the schedule. DVRs and electronic programming guides brought us into the age of active TV, where we can access programming and schedules on our terms. Now get ready for the next generation: interactive TV. The Internet has found the TV, and the two are gearing up for a long and promising relationship.
Sony began the movement last year with its Video Link modules, which provided a pathway to the Internet. This year, Samsung and Sharp have followed with Ethernet-ready TVs. You provide the Internet connection, and they pull in the content.
Unlike early stabs at Internet through TV (remember WebTV?), today’s generation doesn’t aim to provide a full Internet experience. You won’t, for instance, be Googling an obscure actor to find his list of movie credits. The TV makers have brokered deals with content providers for specially designed material as alternate programming for viewers. Content ranges from news headlines to stock quotes to full-length movies.
Info On Demand
Sony rolled out Video Link slowly last year as part of a Bravia TV strategy based on optional Video Link modules that plug into the back of the TV. Services are free, but the module tacks on another $300 to the cost of the TV. The fare includes video clips from AOL, Yahoo, and Grouper and movie trailers and music from Sony properties. This year at the Consumer Electronics Show, the company took the concept to the next level, announcing additional content partners including CBS Interactive.
With half a year’s experience on the books, Sony research indicates consumers appreciate not having to type in a web address or surf for content. The company doesn’t disclose the content provider it uses for its news, traffic and weather services, but Randy Waynick, senior vice president of the home products division, says the ability to have instant access to local traffic reports, headlines and forecasts by pushing one button on the remote has proved very popular. “You don’t have to wait for 25 minutes past the hour to get your local news anymore,” Waynick says. Instead, consumers issue the command for information, which is updated every 30 seconds to one minute.