Net holds off threat from interactive TV – so far

Trials for interactive TV have been disappointing, and online service provider AOL claims the Internet is safe – in the medium term at least.

AOL executives have downplayed suggestions that interactive TV will supersede the Internet as the main avenue for electronic branding and commerce in the UK.

But Jonathan Bulkeley, managing director of AOL UK, confirms that the online service provider may seek a deal with Sky-dominated British Interactive Broadcasting to deliver AOL services through TV screens.

Bulkeley, addressing ad agency representatives last Friday at an AOL presentation, insisted that the Internet will remain the main delivery system for electronic branding in the medium term.

But when pressed by suggest-ions that only digital TV could deliver a mass market for interactive services in the UK, Bulkeley responded: “AOL is not platform specific. If you asked whether we might do a deal with Sky (British Interactive Broadcasting), the answer is yes.”

Myer Berlow, US-based senior vice-president of interactive marketing at AOL Networks, told the audience that US trials for TV-delivered interactive services had proved disappointing.

“The skill of the company has been in developing content, and that is a skill which we can take into any technology, including broadband and narrowband cable systems,” said Berlow.

“Does that mean we will be in WebTV? The answer is yes. But in trials for interactive TV, the format hasn’t lived up to its promise.”

He added that AOL’s peaktime “audience” of 400,000 already matched the TV audience for cable stations such as CNN and MTV in the US.

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