NBC Universal sees growth in interactive TV

MUMBAI: US media conglomerate NBC Universal says that its television networks had a strong year in interactive television.

40 iTV programmes or events were launched across 12 business units, and generated over 130 million web votes and SMS messages.

The wide variety of iTV features ranged from choosing the Lucky Case for the chance to win $10,000 on NBC's game show Deal or No Deal to single-screen synchronous interaction with Bravo's Top Chef to in-show text alerts from the characters of USA Network's The 4400.

NBC Universal Cable Entertainment, Digital Content and Cross-Network Strategy president Jeff Gaspin says, "We need to find ways to engage consumers like never before. These interactive applications give us insight into our viewers' behaviour and offer them opportunities to connect with their favorite programming."

NBC Universal director, iTV product development Jon Dakss says, "ITV is a huge area of growth for the company. It has significantly changed television viewing habits, making it a much more hands-on experience. Viewers are clearly responding in record numbers, and we are excited to launch a number of new interactive features in the coming year."

This year, NBCU says that it achieved several milestones in the iTV universe. The company launched seven single-screen iTV applications, more than any media company in the US, reaching millions of viewers. In addition, NBCU's interactive programmes, like Deal or No Deal and Bravo's Project Runway received over 100 million web votes and 30 million SMS messages. In February, NBC became the first U.S. network to deploy the same single-screen iTV application to multiple digital platforms simultaneously during the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Moreover NBCU's success in the iTV space has translated into several sponsorship opportunities. Bravo's Top Chef and Sears Kenmore PRO accomplished three firsts for a US network programme by deploying the first sponsored 1-screen enhanced TV element over a digital cable network, the first 1-screen enhanced TV element for a show across multiple digital cable systems simultaneously, and the first sponsored cross-carrier video message to a cell phone. In Bravo's first season of Top Chef single-screen interactivity that was made available to Time Warner Cable digital subscribers culminated in a peak of 30 per cent viewer participation.

NBCU's iTV department is part of a new NBC Universal division known as the Technology Growth Center, which continues to grow as NBCU's digital efforts expand. The iTV team has made two new hires further bolstering its team. Andy Castin joins from ABC/Disney as a Senior iTV Technical Producer, working with NBC's Sports and News divisions. Elena Ritchie from Motricity (formerly GoldPocket Wireless) also joins the group as an iTV Technical Producer and will focus on iTV initiatives for NBC's entertainment properties.

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