The majority of consumers understand what interactive television is, they want it now, and they are willing to upgrade from analog to digital cable, or switch between cable and satellite services, in order to get interactive content delivered to their homes, according to a recent national study commissioned by interactive technology companies ACTV, Inc., Liberty Livewire Corp., Motorola, Inc., OpenTV and Universal Electronics Inc. The study, aimed at gauging consumer interest in getting interactive TV services and their reaction to various delivery options, was conducted by Boyd Consulting, a market research firm located in Palm Desert, Calif.
"The study's findings tell us that consumers are keenly interested in getting interactive TV services and that they like all the delivery options they were shown," said David Beddow, CEO of Liberty Livewire and spokesperson for the research sponsors. "Even with the nascent state of the technology and content, cable and satellite operators have a captivated, if not captive, audience eager to use interactive services now," Beddow said. "Via digital set-top boxes that are being deployed today, we have the technology to deliver the interactive TV experience consumers want."
Participants in the national study were exposed to an interactive TV experience in three different ways: 1) a two-screen scenario in which synchronized Internet content for a TV program is delivered over a PC located in the same room as the TV; 2) a one-screen, or "on-screen", scenario that drives interactive Internet content through a digital cable or satellite set-top box to the TV and is viewed as an overlay on part of the TV screen; and 3) an "on-screen" system enhanced by the ability to download the content to one or more handheld touch-screen devices that can personalize the interactive experience without disrupting TV viewing.
While emphasizing that the study's sponsors provide all three content delivery configurations today, Beddow said, "The two-screen scenario, which is most broadly available, is clearly helping to jumpstart consumer interest in interactive TV services and programming. But overall, the delivery option that consumers liked best was the on-the-TV-screen overlay enhanced by a handheld touch-screen control device, such as Universal Electronics' Mosaic(R)."
Receptivity to Interactive Solutions
- The single-screen TV overlay format and the two-screen TV/PC solution were liked equally well by more than two-thirds of consumers participating in the study.
- Personalizing interactive TV by using a handheld touch-screen device improved customer perceptions, with three out of four consumers (76%) liking the experience overall.
- Asked how they would use interactive services delivered through any of the three options, consumers indicated a
preference for instant access to information such as news, sports and weather (52%), followed by interactive TV guide
(44%), behind-the-scenes information on TV programs (38%), e-mail (37%), games or quizzes (32%), and other uses.
- 64% of all digital cable customers and 57% of all satellite customers surveyed said that having the single-screen TV
overlay format as an interactive solution would make them feel more satisfied with the service they currently have.
- These satisfaction figures increased slightly to 70% and 58%, respectively, with the addition of the handheld touch-screen device.
Willingness to Upgrade, Switch Services
- Among analog cable customers, nearly one-half (47%) indicated that availability of single-screen interactive TV service would make them more interested in subscribing to a digital service.
- Availability of the Mosaic/handheld device enhancement drove up to two-thirds (64%) the number of analog cable customers interested in upgrading to digital interactive service.
- More than half (57%) of consumers said that, if they were to trade up, they would select whichever digital service (cable or satellite) offered the single-screen TV overlay format for interactive TV, coupled with a handheld touch-screen device.
- 40% of satellite customers participating in the survey indicated that they would switch to a digital cable service if
the single-screen TV overlay solution for interactive services were available only through the cable delivery structure. This number increases to 42% with introduction of the handheld touch-screen device.
"As important efforts continue to advance the technology for multiple interactive experiences involving the Internet and the television, the cable industry is already positioned to recruit a growing number of American households who will be accessing and viewing interactive TV content," said Beddow. "Through set-top boxes and cable-modem hookups, cable operators have a tremendous opportunity to tap into the revenue-generating possibilities afforded in today's interactive marketplace."
Beddow noted that about 52 million American households already have a TV and computer in the same room, allowing them to watch a television program while experiencing specially authored interactive elements of the program via their computers with ACTV's HyperTV(R) technology, either through dial-up, DSL or cable modem. Through a joint venture between ACTV and Liberty Livewire, he explained, HyperTV(R) with Livewire enables TV networks, programmers and advertisers to deliver by PC compelling interactive Web content, Web-based advertising, e-commerce and community chat features synchronized to live or pre-recorded TV programming (or any other video-based programming). HyperTV, and ACTV's other interactive TV programming technologies and services, also tap the power of currently deployed digital set-tops to make "one-screen" interactivity a reality today, Beddow noted.
"The easy addition of interactive TV middleware to a digital set-top box would enable millions to watch television programs and experience interactivity today," Beddow continued. OpenTV, whose software for digital interactive TV is deployed in almost 14 million digital set-top boxes worldwide, enables customers to view enhanced TV programs, shop and bank from home, send and receive email, and access Web content on demand. In terms of digital set-top box availability, Motorola alone has shipped more than 12 million digital cable set-top boxes to more than 100 different broadband network operators, Beddow said.
"Add to these deployed interactive digital services UEI's state-of-the-art Mosaic - a two-way RF touch-screen wireless control device (the IR version of which is already being shipped through retail outlets), and consumers can experience interactive TV by downloading content onto a palmtop-like touch screen that doubles as a handheld monitor," Beddow said. UEI's patented two-way RF data communication feature allows one or more TV viewers to individualize their interactive experience by downloading interactive content directly from the digital set-top box onto the Mosaic and then to also use the Mosaic to control as many as 15 audio-visual (A/V) devices. "Viewers can use UEI's Mosaic to individually access interactive Web content, peruse the interactive program guide or explore interactive options, such as e-commerce, games and e-mail, in the palm of their hand without interfering with others' TV viewing experience," Beddow said.
Boyd Consulting conducted quantitative, one-on-one interviews with more than 500 head-of-household consumers across the United States in November and December 2000. An equal number of analog and digital cable or satellite customers were surveyed.
For more information at http://www.actv.com.