MEDIA: SKY PLAY - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. Sky Play combines interactive features with excellent quality content, Jason George reports

Having produced some of the first interactive programming for

Eurosport's coverage of the 1994 World Cup, I've been waiting to reach

the promised land of compelling interactive sports coverage for longer

than I care to remember.



Sky Sports Active? Doesn't do it for me. The first time I tuned in, for

a Leeds game against Liverpool in 1999, I found it totally intrusive on

my already rabid relationship with Andy Gray and his Super Slowmo

gadgets.



So it was with some scepticism that I approached the launch of Sky Play

for another major Leeds game, this time last Sunday's battle with

Chelsea.



Sky Play enables the viewer to make predictions before and during the

game to accumulate points, with the top scorer receiving a cash

prize.



After giving the rules the once over ten minutes before the game, I made

my predictions for the match. First scorer, time of first goal, first

player to be booked. As a spread-betting loser, it's easy to see where

this type of predictive gaming will lead. It won't be long before we're

playing for money.



The beauty of Sky Play is that during the game it allows the viewer to

make on-the-spot predictions on events such as the outcome of a

free-kick.



I found myself with the remote control constantly in my hand, making

sure that I didn't miss any opportunity to increase my points tally.

That naff phrase "sticky content" sums up this digital nirvana of

broadcast-quality TV with the index finger-twitching interactivity of

the games console.



Crucially, the interface is simple and the application functions

quickly.



The service complements the broadcast coverage, it's easy to use and

doesn't get in the way of the on-screen action.



There are still improvements to be made - I'd like more feedback on the

predictions and, because of technology limitations, it's not possible to

leave the channel during the broadcast.



At about £1.50 a time, the service is not cheap but sponsors will

be attracted to Sky Play so this charge may come down. The real earner

for Sky will come by licensing the technology for use with terrestrial

brands such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, The Weakest Link and

coverage of the major sporting events, and sharing in telephony revenue

as Channel 4 did with Big Brother.



Editorially driven content is always a must for truly compelling

interactivity and Sky Play does deliver a great proposition.

Unfortunately, my total of 4,650 points wasn't enough to get me a spot

on the leaderboard. I was sick as a parrot.



Channel: Sky Sports Extra

Frequency: During games shown on Sky Sports Extra

Time: 21 October, 3pm

Number of users: Not being released for first programme

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