The internet is bringing back ideas overlooked by interactive TV. Julian Clover reports from the IPTV World Forum
It may have been another Life on Mars moment or simply the fact that given long enough most untried ideas will come round again. Somewhere in the mid 1990s a concept was developed whereby it was suggested that through interactive television it would be possible to buy the very clothes worn by our favourite actors.
The idea is back again, this time rather than interactive TV, broadband TV will be used. The overlays a little similar to some of Google’s work with video advertising were presented at the TV Over the Net conference, part of this week’s IPTV World Forum at Olympia, London, by Lianne Dietrich, the UK managing director of LinkShare.
The user would scroll their mouse over the video and cursor might change to an ‘i’ symbol for more information of perhaps a dollar sign indicating that an item could be purchased.
We saw a mock up of an episode of 24 where it might be possible to purchase Jack Bauer’s shirt or the car he was driving. Such product placement would presumably bring furrowed brows to Ofcom, but would please the producers of the weekend sponsored DIY shows on Dutch television that have brought product placement to a new level.
But just how would it work in reality? It surely wouldn’t be possible to run it without the co-operation of the production company and would the broadcaster want their programmes to be treated in this manner. “Since we’ve been involved in this in the US we can say that it is real because we’ve done it,” Dietrich told me across the room. Well almost, Dietrich later explained that it had been run in demo form, which would explain why NBC rather than Fox was attributed as the US broadcaster of 24.
Convergence is now coming at us from both sides, so it follows that what we see in interactive television will also be presented to us on the Web. Another example is the use of web feeds to provide additional content around the screen on a TV show. Having dismissed the idea of watching the TV and playing along with a quiz show on a laptop I find I am now doing the same myself.
The BBC is looking at the idea of setting up an online database that gives details of actors and production credits, the sort usually shrunk so small it is impossible to read them, but maybe this should really be as part of an interactive service.