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Marriage of TV/Web underway

Companies have been touting wares lately that provide access to the Internet via your television, but what about accessing TV shows via your PC?

Companies have been touting wares lately that provide access to the Internet via your television, but what about accessing TV shows via your PC? That technology is not far away. Four cable and media giants today agreed to promote a standard for displaying television shows and multimedia information on personal computers. Tele-Communications, Time Warner, NBC, and CNN said they will support the Intercast standard developed by Intel and become part of the Intercast Industry Group.

Intercast, which will be available in the second half of this year, allows broadcasters to transmit data in the portion of the television signal known as the vertical blanking interval at speeds almost four times that of the fastest available modems. In addition, the technology will allow users to watch a TV show in one part of their PC's screen and at the same time be able to download Internet information in another part.

The Intercast Industry Group was formed in October by PC manufacturers Gateway 2000, Packard Bell, and technology provider Intel. "Your PC will be receiving the broadcast signal just as it comes into your home today," said Christina Blackwell, media relations specialist for Intercast.

Content providers will offer information to users that relates to various television programs. "Initially content providers will pick their top shows, and ultimately you'll see a symbol in your TV guide that will say, 'This is Intercast,'" said Blackwell. "Say you're watching the Olympics. At the bottom of your screen a box will appear with information that's directly related to the sport or athlete you're watching," she said. "You can also store the information on your hard disk."

As the technology becomes available, media giants are expected to jump on the bandwagon. "CBS isn't involved right now, but I expect companies to take an interest in this because it will develop readership and viewership loyalty, and may steal eyeballs away from other networks," Blackwell said. "Ultimately, this is one of those things that will either be wildly successful or will flop."