As an increasing number of broadcasters announce plans to integrate TV programming with Web sites, WorldGate Communications has begun promoting a new technology that would let cable operators and television stations add Web hyperlinks to their shows.
WorldGate is pushing its TV On-Line service that promises to give cable subscribers high-speed access to the Internet without requiring a PC or a cable modem or anything except a new generation of cable set-top box expected to enter trials in January. TV On-Line service will allow viewers to easily jump between television programming and related online content such as live chats and Web sites.
Although TV On-Line was first announced in April, WorldGate may be nervous that Intel's Intercast technology will capture the market before the TV On-Line Service is ready to go. NBC is already using Intercast to broadcast Olympics coverage next week, but WorldGate has signed no major cable partners yet, though the company says it's in discussion with almost a dozen major carriers in the United States.
To remind broadcasters that TV On-Line is still on its way, the company announced today a new feature that will let television broadcasters build hyperlinks into their broadcasts so that any TV On-Line viewer will be able to link to Web sites with related content with the push of a remote control button.
For the service to work, cable service providers need to outfit the "head ends," or hubs, of their systems with powerful servers that allow users to remotely run applications such as email and chat clients, and Web browsers. Unlike cable-based Internet service providers, such as the @Home currently in beta testing, TVOL does not require cable companies to completely revamp their networks to handle two-way communications, but the cable companies will have to make some modifications to their cable boxes, a WorldGate official said.
The company expects TV On-Line to go into testing in January, with a broader roll-out in later in the first half of 1997. TVOL should cost subscribers less than $5 per month for five hours and give users three times the connection speed of conventional modems, said David Dill, chief financial officer at WorldGate.
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