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Intel teams with PBS for digital broadcasts

The chip giant and public television say they will collaborate on producing enhanced content for 24-hour digital television broadcasts.

SAN FRANCISCO--Intel and PBS today announced they would collaborate on producing enhanced content for 24-hour digital television broadcasts.

Intel and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), having already teamed for the first digital television trial with supplemental content for PCs, are now slated to begin producing enhanced programs starting in April 2000. Both companies will also collaborate on developing software tools that ease the creation and reworking of digital content for use in enhanced programming.

Intel chairman Andy Grove, whose main role now is as Intel's in-house visionary, today offered attendees of the national PBS affiliate convention held here his vision of what he and others have called the "the virtuous cycle."

By creating content that takes advantage of new technology, more viewers will be compelled to watch it (and buy the needed technology), Grove said, while more advertisers will be compelled to spend money reaching that audience, resulting in more money to develop content.

So far, given the paucity of digital TV receivers that have been purchased, combining data with TV content could be an attractive alternative for broadcasters in search of an audience. Yet the question remains: What should that content be viewed on?

Instead of advocating the viewing of enhanced TV through newfangled information appliances as many others are doing, Grove offered a somewhat "retro" solution: watch it on a PC. Enhanced programming, as Intel defines it here, is digital content sent in the DTV signal for playback on a PC.

Grove argued that digital television gives PBS--and other broadcasters--an opportunity to either act as a gateway to other e-commerce sites or become a virtual store themselves.

But those kinds of services are best suited to a broadband connection into the home. That changes with the move to digital television, which was designed to move massive amounts of video information over the airwaves.

"The easiest, cheapest, fastest way of reaching a large number of homes in the U.S. is with a dark horse in the race [to provide broadband into the home]: DTV signals," said Grove. "Don't hobble the dark horse by tying it to a non-existant receiver."

Grove stressed the need to take advantage of the fact that PCs can be turned into DTV receivers, he said.