March 26, 1996

Partners to Offer Enhanced TV Over Internet


NEW YORK (Reuters) -- ACTV Inc. and a partner, Earthweb LLC, said Monday that they planned to offer a system that allows computer users to view enhanced TV programming and program-related information in real time via the Internet.

The companies said the system, known as HyperTV, enables television programmers to provide enhanced content directly corresponding to video broadcasts via the Internet .

ACTV's president, Bruce Crowley, said that the HyperTV technology represented the convergence of broadcast television with the customizing capacity of the personal computer, creating a new category of personalized television.

"The fact is that broadcasters are loosing "face time" to the Internet," said Crowley, referring to how the popularity of surfing the Internet has begun to siphon away some of TV's traditional audience.

The system provides viewers both customized programming and advertising. Revenues will be derived from broadcast license, audience measurement and distribution fees based on the number of users of the system, the partners said.

The system will be available for no extra cost to Internet users.

HyperTV is a joint venture owned by ACTV, a publicly owned company, and EarthWeb, which is privately held. Both companies are based in New York City.

The software-based system enables anyone with a TV set and a personal computer running Java software to use the system.

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java is the leading programming language for creating interactive Web programs.

HyperTV works by sending a stream of Web page addresses via an Internet connection to the consumer's computer.

The system synchronizes a computer system so that particular Web pages can be called up at the same moment the corresponding video images are displayed on the TV channel.

Using the HyperTV technology, a viewer watching a TV network news show could be offered a variety of supplemental information about each news story.

Viewers might be encouraged to call up a map of Bosnia or information on how the latest Federal Reserve interest rate cut could affect their personal finances.

HyperTV users can take advantage of the two-way capabilities of the Internet to respond to polls, to order merchandise, to send e-mail or to connect to other Web sites.

Background material might be specially created by the broadcaster or drawn from the wealth of existing sites on the World Wide Web, the graphical, easy-to-use portion of the Internet.

"We see this as enhancing the broadcaster's relationship with their viewer," Crowley said in an interview. "HyperTV extends (a broadcaster's) relationships into the Web and forms additional streams of revenue for them," he said.

Nova Spivak, a vice president and co-founder of EarthWeb, said, "You never really leave the broadcaster's site; you are searching the Web from within the broadcaster's site."

HyperTV software requires no additional hardware. The technology supports either analog or digital television broadcasts without broadcasters or end-users having to alter their existing systems, the companies said.

HyperTV can be received on a PC running a TV tuner adapter card or directly on a television set tied to a personal computer operating in the background.

The system can also be used for interactive educational instruction in schools and colleges.

The venture's executives said they were in talks with major broadcasters, cable programmers and others media companies to license the technology but declined to name the parties.

"It is pretty early in the process," said Crowley. We don't have anything to announce now."

EarthWeb is an Internet software developer that also operates Gamelan, a popular Web directory listing Java-based software, and Fashion Internet, a leading online fashion magazine.

HyperTV is currently operational, but the officials said they planned to wait until the third quarter to release the product and to use the intervening period to work with potential licensees to deploy the technology widely.

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