Spiderdance weaves Web to new tune

May 28, 2001  •  Post A Comment

One of the few remaining followers of the dual-screen approach to interactive television content development is shifting to the single-screen ITV method.
Spiderdance signed a deal with Microsoft TV last week, hoping the software giant can convince cable operators to include its interactive service in their “walled gardens,” or Internet-on-television portals for digital customers.
“We were totally focused on two-screen [interactivity] until about four months ago,” Spiderdance CEO Steven Hoffman said. The move isn’t quite so surprising, however, considering that GoldPocket Interactive, one of Spiderdance’s two major competitors in the PC Internet-and-television-synchronization space (the other being ACTV’s HyperTV), announced a pact with interactive television operating-system producer PowerTV earlier this year.
Spiderdance, which has raised about $9 million in financing since its inception in 1997, is developing a split-screen design for its synchronized programs that will display the interactive gaming screen in one portion of the screen while exhibiting the accompanying cable television program on the remaining section of the TV monitor. The company is developing its own original programming, which will run in sync with an online game, according to an executive familiar with the situation.
Tapping into the creative resources of its staff, who can boast of experience in both broadcast programming and media technology, Spiderdance is working on a slate of reality shows and fast-action features.
Before joining Spiderdance, Vice President of Programming Chris Swain designed interactive enhancements for the Discovery Channel, and Vice President of Sales and Business Development Steve Friedman worked as director of affiliate sales and marketing at Playboy Television.
Although Spiderdance now extols the virtues of one-screen interactive television, the company isn’t abandoning the bifurcated method of reaching viewers who access the Internet through their personal computers while watching a separate television in the same room.
“I think the two-screen model is a great approach for the next five years,” Mr. Hoffman said, citing a Gartner Group study released last year that found 44 million Americans surf the Internet and watch television simultaneously.
Mr. Hoffman said Spiderdance, which was formed several years ago as an outlet for dual-screen broadcast synchronization technology, has come to realize in recent months that it cannot reach a sufficient mass of viewers on the Internet alone. “They say rob banks because that’s where the money is,” he said. “We’re going where the users are.”
To date the company has employed its two-screen format to create PC counterparts for several cable television networks’ game shows, including MTV’s “Webriot,” the History Channel’s “History IQ,” the Game Show Network’s “Inquizition” and TBS’s “Cyber Bond.”
But, Spiderdance is now pushing to sign deals with the major broadcast networks. “The broadcasters have bigger audiences, which is even better for us,” Mr. Hoffman said.