Digital TV Promises a New Level of Interactive Entertainment and Information for Television Viewers – Stories

,October30,1998Imaginesittinginyourlivingroom,watchinggamesixoftheWorldSeriesontelevision,andbeingabletointeractwiththegame。

Youclickonyourfavoriteplayertolearnhisbattingaverageagainstthepitcherhesfacingashecomesuptobat。

Youchangecamerastogetaclose-upoftheballashehitsahighflyintoleftfield,andthenyoutapabuttontoseethereplay。

Youclickonyourscreentoorderacommemorativepictureafteryourfavoriteplayerhitsthegame-winninghomerun。

AllthiswhileyourTVproducescrystalclearpicturesandCD-qualitysound。

ThisvisionofdigitaltelevisionwillmoveastepclosertorealityonSunday,November1,whenmorethan40televisionstationsinthenations10largestcitiesbegintransmittingdigitaltelevisionsignals。

Themoveisoneofthefirstconcretestepsinadecade-longprocesstoconverttelevisionsignalsintheU。

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fromanalogtodigital。

TheFederalCommunicationsCommissionhasmandatedthattelevisionstationscompletetheconversiontodigitalbroadcastingby2006。

ThatyeartheanalogspectrummaybeturnedoffifthedigitalmarkethasdevelopedsufficientlyandmostU。

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householdshavereplacedtheiranalogTVswithdigitaltelevisionsets,oracquiredsomeothertechnology(likeasettopconverterbox)enablingthemtoreceiveandtranslatedigitalsignalsintoanalog。

ThedigitalsignalsTVstationswillbeginbroadcastingonSundaywontbenoticeabletomostviewers。

First,mosttelevisionstationshaveyettoproducedigitaltelevisionprograms,andmostconsumershaveyettopurchasethestillexpensiveandrarehigh-definitiontelevisionsets(HDTVs)。

Inaddition,digitalsignalswillnotbeavailabletoapproximatelythree-quartersofAmericanTVviewerswhogettheirtelevisionviacableorsatellitesystems。

Thevastmajorityofthe100millionU。

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householdswhohaveanalogTVsetswillcontinuetowatchTVastheyalwayshave,withoutanyinterruptiontotheirprogramming。

ViewerswhoownanHDTVwillexperiencebetterqualityaudioandvideo,butonlywhilewatchingthelimitednumberofprogramsdesignedfordigitalTV。

Theywontbeabletoexperienceinteractiveprogramsonthisfirstwaveofdigitalreceiversuntilalaterdate,whenthetechnologyandcontentfortheseprogramsaredeveloped。

Still,themovemarksanimportantstepforwardfordigitaltelevision。

Astelevisionentersthedigitalage,imagesandsoundwillnolongerbetransmittedaselectronicwavesbutinsteadasnumbers,essentiallyspeakingthesamelanguageascomputersorCDplayersandotherdigitaldevices。

Thisopensuptremendousopportunitiesforconsumers,whowillbeabletoexperiencehigh-qualityvideoandsoundaswellasawholenewlevelofentertainmentandinformation。

Microsoft,alongwithotherleadersinthecomputer,broadcast,cable,satelliteandcomputerelectronicsindustries,isworkingtodevelopthetechnologyandstandardsthatwillenablethisneweraofTV。

ThecompanywantstohelpmakesurethattheDTVexperienceisauniversalone,availabletoalltelevisionviewersasquicklyandaffordablyaspossible,bydevelopingthesoftwarefordigitalset-topboxes,televisionsandPCsastelevisionentersthedigitalarena。

MicrosoftcurrentlyoffersWebTV,asystemthatallowspeopletoaccesstheInternetontheirtelevisionsandintegratethecontentofbothtocomplementtheshowstheywatchwithassociatedentertainment,informationandservices。

Microsoftisalsoworkingwithabroadrangeofleadersfrommultipleindustriestosetthestandardsforinteractivedigitaltelevisionsothatpeoplecanviewinteractivetelevisionprogrammingnomatterwhattypeofreceivertheyownorhowthebroadcastistransmittedwhetherbyantenna,cableorsatellite。

MicrosoftisamemberoftheAdvancedTelevisionEnhancementForum(ATVEF),across-industrygroupformedtodefinestandardprotocolsfortelevisionprogramsenhancedwithdata。

Microsoftisalsoworkingwithawidevarietyofcompaniestopromoteinteractivetelevisionproductsandservicesandtospeeduptheadoptionofdigitaltelevision。

Digitaltelevisionisallaboutenablingthelast50yearsofbroadcastmaterial,25yearsworthofcable,15yearsworthofPCandfiveyearsworthofInternetcontenttobeavailableonthetelevision,saidSteveGuggenheimer,groupproductmanagerfordigitaltelevisionatMicrosoft。

Itrequiresalotofcooperationacrossindustries,somenewstandards,andanarchitecturethatwillmakeitveryseamlessforconsumerstogetaccesstoalltypesofcontentasanaturalandlogicalextensionoftheirtelevision。

Whilethechangesarejuststartingtohappen,theywilleventuallyaltertelevisionasweknowit。

Digitaltelevisionwillopenupnewbusinessopportunitiesforadvertisersbymakingiteasierforthemtotargetcustomers。

Forexample,becausetheInternetcanstoreapersonszipcode,viewerscouldeasilyaccesstheirtownslocalmovielistingswhilewatchinganationallytelevisedcommercialforanewmovie。

Digitaltelevisionwillalsocreatenewbusinessopportunitiesforbroadcasters。

Forinstance,broadcasterscouldchargeafeeforpremiumservicessuchastheabilitytoparticipateinaninteractivegameshowortocontrolthecamerausedtoviewasportingevent。

Mostimportant,digitaltelevisionwillopenupawiderangeofopportunitiesforconsumers。

ViewerswillbeabletousetheirTVstowatchinteractivetelevisionprograms,sendandreceivee-mailandaccesstheInternet。

TheywillevenbeabletoholdvideoconferencesovertheirTVsandwatchmoviesondemand。

Bydefinition,televisionisverymuchapushmedium,Guggenheimersaid。

Wepushprogrammingcontentouttoviewers。

TheInternetisverymuchapullmedium。

Wegooutandwepullwhatwewantoffofit。

Whenthetwoworldscometogether,yougetawholenewworldofinteractivity。

Youcanbeallpush,allpull,orsomemarriageofthetwo。

ButdotelevisionviewersreallywanttointeractwiththeirTVs?

Arenttheyhappysimplybeingcouchpotatoes?

Notnecessarily,Guggenheimersaid。

Theremotecontrolisaninteractivedevice,hepointsout,andapopularoneatthat。

Itwilltaketimeforthemarkettodeterminehow,andhowmuch,peoplewanttointeractwiththeirTVs。

Ultimately,peoplewillhaveachoice。

Youcanturninteractivityonorturnitoff,Guggenheimersaid。

Buthavinginteractionasanoptionmakessensebecausetherearesomepeoplewhowillwanttointeract。

IfyoulookatpeopletodaywhoplaygamesontheirTV,browsetheInternetontheirTVandlistentomusic,people,especiallyyoungerpeople,liketodomorethanonethingatonce。

MeredithDavis,aWebTVuserinLongIsland,N。

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saidshebelievesinteractivetelevisionwillappealtothosewhocantaffordacomputeraswellascustomerswhoareintimidatedbyPCs-particularlyolderpeople。

Themotheroftwochildren,DavissaidowningaWebTVunithasmadeheranInternetexpert。

IcantellyouthatinthetwoyearsIveownedit,Iveusediteveryday,Davissaid。

Iusee-mailalot,Ilikethenewsgroups,Iliketovisitthedifferentsites。

Iuseitforjustabouteverything。

Itssoeasytouseforafirst-timeuser。

Althoughtheunderlyingtechnologieswithincomputersandtelevisionsarelikelytoconvergeeventually,Guggenheimerpredictedthatconsumerswillcontinuetousearangeofviewingdevices,dependingontheirpreferencesandneeds。

IfIminthelivingroomandwanttositonthecouchandbe10feetawayfromthedevice,itsverylikelyImgoingtouseatelevision,whichhasabiggerscreenandismeanttobeviewedfromfartheraway,hesaid。

ButifImgoingtobeinmyoffice,itslikelyImgoingtobeusingthePCbecauseImgoingtobesittingtwofeetawayfromit。

Webelievetherewillcontinuetobeavarietyofdevices,anddifferentdeviceswillbeoptimumfordifferentplaces。

KCTS,apublictelevisionstationinSeattle,isamongthefirsttelevisionstationsintheU。

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todevelopdigitaltelevisionprograms。

TheTVstationsdigitalarm,Intris,hascreatedmorethan15high-definitiontelevisionprogramsfordistributionintheU。

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ItaireditsfirstinteractivetelevisionshowinSeptember,andhasanagreementwithMicrosofttomakeWebTVunitsavailabletoKCTSviewerstoexpandviewersabilitytowatchinteractiveTVprograms。

AlthoughKCTSisnotamongthetop10marketsthatmustbegintheconversiontodigitalTVthisyear,ithasalreadydevelopedatestsignalandwillbegintransmittingafullyoperationaldigitalsignalnextApril,saidBarryMartin,directorofbranddevelopmentforIntris。

KCTSisdevelopingprogramsforboththetelevisionandthecomputer,andwillimproveitsprogramstomatchthestateofdigitaltechnology。

Wereagnosticastowhatdevicepeoplewanttoreceiveiton,hesaid。

Ifitsadigitaldevice,wewanttosendasignaltoit。

MartinsaidKCTSdecisiontojumpintothedigitaltelevisionmarketearlyinthegamewasanaturalextensionofthestationsmissiontodevelophigh-qualityprogrammingthatwillbenefititsviewers。

Digitaltelevisionopensupavarietyofopportunities,includingbettereducationalprogrammingforschoolsandcolleges。

Martinpredictedviewerswillwanttotakeadvantageofopportunitiessuchasthese,nomatterwhatdevicetheyuse。

Youstillgetalotofnaysayers,whosaypeopledontwanttowatchTVontheircomputer,hesaid。

Butwhattheydontgetisthatinthedigitaluniverse,theresnosuchthingasacomputerversusatelevisionset。

Itsamonitor,andallthatshappeningisthatyouwillhaveaboxwithmoreorfewercapabilities。

Whiletruedigitaltelevisionisstillawaysoff,Guggenheimersaidconsumershaveseveraloptionstheycantryoverthenextyear。

TheycanpurchaseanHDTVtobegincapturinghigher-qualityvideoandaudiosignalsthatbeginonNovember1,theycantakeadvantageoftheadditionalchannelsthatcableandsatellitetelevisionprovidersarestartingtooffer,andtheycanexperiencetheInternetandinteractiveprogrammingwithaWebTV。

Youcanmixandmatchallofthesethings,butitsnotveryeasytointegratethemyet,hesaid。

Overtime,whatwillhappenisthatthetechnologiesfromthedifferentboxeswillcometogether。

Itmaybe5-10yearsbeforeconsumerscanexperiencethefullbenefitsofdigitaltelevision,Guggenheimersaid。

Inthemeantime,theyshouldviewdigitaltelevisionasanevolutionaryprocess。

ItsnotlikewethrowtheswitchonNovember1,Guggenheimersaid。

Havingthebroadcastersmovetodigitalbroadcastingisanimportantstep,butinthelongtermitsgoingtorequiretheintegrationofdigitalbroadcastwithdigitalcable,digitalsatellite,theadvancedsettopboxandnewdigitalTVsets。