Jul 14, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Every week, I comment on the latest developments in new TV technology and sometimes predict what the industry will do next. However, this week, I am going to suggest two things that it should do, but not necessarily will do.
So here’s what I would like to see:
1. Satellite TV to offer video-on-demand: The cable TV industry has launched video-on-demand in approximately 10 million homes. VOD, which enables you to watch pay-per-view films without waiting, could eventually replace the local video store. However, unlike cable, satellite TV services do not have the bandwidth to deliver multiple films on demand. For a movie lover, cable has a decided advantage.
But I think DirecTV and EchoStar, the nation’s two satellite TV services, should counter by offering exclusive on-demand programming. For instance, EchoStar could partner with the Independent Film Channel to produce original short subjects that would be offered only to dish owners. Doesn’t sound compelling? Well, what if the short films were directed by auteurs such as Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen?
Another idea: DirecTV could team with HBO to air the network’s best shows 24 hours before regular airtime. Can you imagine how much people would pay if they could watch “The Sopranos” before anyone else?
I admit that my idea has some problems. For example, dish operators would have to pay pretty for certain on-demand exclusives. However, if VOD continues to grow in popularity, the satellite TV industry will have to do something.
2. Satellite and cable to offer interactive TV gambling: Interactive TV, which enables viewers to send and receive messages via their televisions, has been a major disappointment. And ITV has fallen below high-definition TV, VOD and DVRs on the launch list of cable and satellite operators.
I believe that ITV can still be a success. But I agree with experts who say most viewers will not interact with their TVs unless the feature is compelling and convenient. I think it’s also important that interactive TV appeal to base desires, particularly in the early stages of an ITV deployment. Rather than giving viewers an opportunity to order pizza or check their e-mail, cable and satellite operators should offer “wow factors” such as interactive gambling, video dating and multiple-player games. And once viewers start using one ITV service, it’s likely they will use more.
That’s what I would like to see.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.