Poll: Consumers are ready for interactive television

Apr 16, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Consumers are craving interactive TV devices and applications, according to a new study.
In a poll sponsored by a group of interactive technology companies including Motorola and OpenTV, many of the 500 cable and satellite TV consumers who participated said they would even consider switching to providers who offer these features.
“We feel that interactive TV is very important,” said Camille Jayne, chairwoman of the board of Universal Electronics, a software and wireless device company and study co-sponsor. “We figured we’d have a lot more credibility if we went to consumers nationally to see how they liked content delivered. We did it through quantitative research and one-on-one interviews, not focus groups, where you can kind of get a group-think.”
The study was sponsored by interactive technology companies ACTV, Liberty Livewire Corp., Motorola, OpenTV and Universal Electronics.
Participants tested three different interactive TV setups: a two-screen option featuring a TV and a PC; a single TV with a set-top box allowing interactive applications to be overlaid on the screen; and that same single TV setup enhanced with a hand-held touch-screen device through which consumers could also interact.
Two-thirds of those surveyed liked the first two options, both of which are currently available. The third option, a single screen with a hand-held touch-screen device, was the top choice of 76 percent of participants, however. Right now only a few companies, including Universal Electronics, offer such a device.
Participants were also asked to evaluate which interactive services they would like best in an interactive television setup. News, sports and weather emerged on top with 52 percent favorable responses, followed by 44 percent interested in an interactive TV guide, 38 percent interested in behind-the-scenes information about TV shows, e-mail preferred by 37 percent, and 32 percent said they would like to see interactive games or quizzes.
Survey sponsors say information like this will help shape the future of interactive TV applications.
“With these surveys, there’s a difference between what you would naturally expect and what turns out be successful. You think, `Do people really want to read their e-mails on the TV or do their banking on the TV?’ and it turns out they do,” said Alec Livingstone, senior vice president of engineering for OpenTV.
“What we perceive to be valuable-with our being used to PCs-isn’t always the best to figure out what the population as a whole is going to believe is valuable.”
Next, cable and satellite operators will need to make interactive TV a priority.
The survey showed that 47 percent of analog cable subscribers would be interested in switching to digital if they could get interactivity on one screen. Forty percent of satellite customers said they would switch to digital cable if that were the only way they could access a single TV screen offering interactivity.
“The next issue is getting the operators to take the risk. It is a new business for them,” Mr. Livingstone said. “It costs a lot of money, and part of what we’re doing is helping operators quantify that risk, create business models that can make money, and help them get over that hurdle.”
Mr. Livingstone added that expansion of interactive offerings will come upon consumers very quickly: “We’re close. Once one company actually leads the charge, the rest will follow.”