JOHN MURRAY IS A PRINCIPAL CONSULTANT AT PHDIQ
Now that the consumers’ favourite has gone interactive, shopping, video
games, information and e-mail are all available on the TV. Our living
rooms are going digital. It’s exciting, unchartered territory and the
main thing that has stood out for me is its dual activity across two
distinctly different markets.
For those inclined to shop until they drop, Sky Digital through Open has
adopted a walled-garden approach.
Although this doesn’t fully represent the wealth of possibilities
offered by the platform as a whole, it will work purely because of these
restrictions. While other providers are still coming to terms with the
fact that reproducing existing web-based content for a television screen
does not answer the production plaudits, Sky can concentrate on offering
a prime quality shopping channel to its subscribers.
In minimising what they offer, its walled garden is easy to navigate,
simple to use and convenient to shop. And it usually delivers the
Although its design is not impressive, its production values appear to
work, but don’t expect to be blinded by its beauty.
Paradoxically, the cable offerings that should be hitting a screen near
you soon have taken a more ambitious approach in terms of scope.
However, their claims that consumers will get web access through their
television sets are proving more difficult to deliver.
It’s early days. Sky Digital may have cornered the mass market with its
restricted service, but in the long term, cable seems set to deliver.
It’s human nature to push the boundaries and people will want more.
Cable seems set to be more ambitious and its increased bandwidth will
offer a more effective and creative solution to delivering interactivity
through your TV set.
NIGEL SHELDON IS A MANAGING PARTNER OF MINDSHARE DIGITAL
When I found myself in the Orlando Home of the 21st century in 1994, and
Full Service Network TV was available in every room, it seemed as though
the future was unveiling itself right there.
Six years on, interactive TV is a reality. As a completely new medium,
interactive TV companies should be applauded for having overcome
technical and regulatory constraints to make some encouraging
At the moment, there’s not much out there, but Open is gradually adding
to the service. It helps that many strong, traditional brands have
endorsed the medium, along with big names from the cyber world such as
Amazon and lastminute.com. But sites need time to mature. Woolworths,
for example, has put its money where its mouth is and their site looks
good, but product wise it’s not as extensive as the internet site.
Interactive TV offers exciting design and creative issues but there’s
high expectation in terms of quality. It’s not like the internet when it
started, where people had no preconceptions.
There also has to be a development in the service. Banner advertising
may be sophisticated for the internet but is not enough for interactive
TV. We need to make interactive TV easy to use and combine good
production values with finding a way to link the broadcasting of a
commercial to the interactive area.
I haven’t completed many transactions, but I enjoy looking around. At
home we buy our groceries and books via the web and when the interactive
TV service has filled out, I will use it.
When technological restrictions are overcome, interactive TV will evolve
to become a personalised and intuitive service, which is customised for
each user. Then advertisers will really benefit.
CHRIS HARRISON IS MANAGING DIRECTOR OF GREY INTERACTIVE TV
It’s true to say that interactive TV is not as sophisticated and
seamless as it should be.
Often services on Open are not yet live and shopping products are only
available in selected interactive stores. The service is also sometimes
a little slower than I’d hoped. I always knew the latency wasn’t going
to be instantaneous but it’s still frustrating to press the button and
not know if you’ll get a response.
However, these facts alone are no reason to knock it. People should look
at the bigger picture and realise that the service offers a radical
proposition with huge potential. Every two weeks we hear of new features
designed to be used on the Open platform. It’s empowering consumers. In
time, interactive TV will offer us a broader, more holistic
We’ll be able to look at a video clip before deciding whether to go and
see a band, and that clip will far surpass the quality of clips used on
Despite the limited product set at present, the impact the platform is
having is still incredible. With every service that goes live, we learn
something new. We’re exploring a new playground. It’s even effecting the
way we work - before we had monthly status reports in the agency but
because of the speed of change in this arena we’re putting pen to paper
It’s inevitable that certain people will be cynical of the medium, it
does require a leap of faith by the consumer. People are overwhelmed by
its potential. Every time a new version is built, more is learned about
what can be done with it. The initial success stories that are trickling
down are spurring the industry to harness the incredible potential that
is interactive TV.
STEVE WILLIAMS IS A MANAGING PARTNER OF BMP OMD
Open should be congratulated for getting itself running before the cable
industry, which is still struggling to roll out.
However, as a representative of the interactive TV platform, it is by no
means out of the woods. Speed of service on the shopping channel leaves
much to be desired.
It takes a long time to browse what limited stock there is, and even if
you can find what you want, there are unforeseen pitfalls strewn to
litter the shopping superhighway.
I tried to test the interactive service by ordering a pizza and it was
only after I’d been through the lengthy ordering process, that I was
informed I wasn’t in the catchment area. I live the other side of
Crystal Palace, not the Congo. It may be the couch potatoes’ nirvana,
but it does little to endear the whole interactive experience to the
However, Open represents first-generation shopping television. Cable may
promise faster response times in its improved second generation
technology, but interactive television’s potential is clear.
In a seven-week period during which Hasbro’s Trivial Pursuit game was
live, more than 1.1 million connections were registered on the premium
rate line featured at the end of the game. From an entertainment
provision point of view, Hasbro has proved that designing an attractive
game drives traffic - enough to supersede expectations.
Clearly a balance is required. If as much onus is put on the creative
process as the technical side of the interactive TV platform, we will
see the other services performing equally profitably and
We know the future of relationship marketing lies here and, after all,
Rome wasn’t built in a day.