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Report questions interactive TV

Most people don't care about online supplemental content for entertainment-based interactive TV, a report finds.

The rollout of digital television may not lead to a revolution of interactive entertainment television programming, a new study says, throwing cold water on one aspect of a highly anticipated feature of next-generation TV.

In fact, the new report found that most people don't care about online supplemental content for entertainment-based interactive TV. Rather, 37 percent of the study's participants preferred getting supplemental content for news stories, according to a survey conducted by market research firm Jupiter Communications.

But less than 10 percent said they cared about getting more information while watching a sitcom or drama. The Jupiter report runs contrary to assumptions in the TV and computer industries that digital television will represent a breakthrough in interactive entertainment.

Jupiter is using the report to advise clients that their next-generation TV efforts should focus on informational content, not entertainment.

"We believe most of the supplemental content that will develop around digital televisions will be informative in nature and utility-driven," said Jupiter analyst Ross Rubin.

Jupiter also predicts that fewer than 20 percent of homes will be equipped with digital TV by 2006, adding to the confusion about digital TV, which may have an uncertain launch in November.

Jupiter also urged electronics companies not to mimic the PC in their quest to make the TV "smarter." This is because TV viewers will only exert minimal effort to get added value from digital TV services, Jupiter said.

Jupiter asked online consumers what they were willing to do to obtain interactivity on the TV. Thirty-nine percent said they would be willing to use a simple remote control function, while 26 percent said they would do nothing to obtain the new features. Only 10 percent indicated that they would either "browse the Web" or "click on TV-Web links."

"With PC prices falling quickly, Jupiter believes that the PC will continue to remain the dominant platform for Web access. However, its broad focus as a platform diminishes its suitability for the digital set-top task," Rubin said in a statement.

Rubin encourages consumer electronics firms to pursue devices that allow for "scalable interactivity" to accommodate consumers' acceptance and comfort with interactivity.

The study found that users rated background information as being one of the biggest perks for digital interactive TV programming, while they surprisingly rated email and shopping as less important.