WorldGate Communications Inc. last week announced a
small-scale Nielsen Media Research study this summer to track usage of its "Channel
HyperLinking" technology among 1,000 Massillon (Ohio) Cable TV subscribers.
Channel HyperLinking weds television with the Internet,
enabling viewers to shift from television or cable programming or commercials and get
additional information or order products and services from related Web sites by clicking
on-screen icons with their remotes.
Four major advertisers -- General Motors Corp., Kraft
Foods, Sprint Corp. and Warner-Lambert Co. -- will participate in the project, which will
provide demographic information on interactive viewers and track how WorldGate's
technology affects their viewing patterns, WorldGate chairman and CEO Hal Krisbergh said.
This so-called spearhead study -- which starts July 28 and
runs for three months -- will precede WorldGate's larger, national Nielsen study, dubbed
"Channel HyperLinking Marketing Study 2000."
The larger study is scheduled to start in the fourth
quarter, and it will involve 70 cable networks, several MSOs and a broader base of
advertisers, according to Krisbergh.
Planning on 1,000 subscribers per MSO, Krisbergh estimated
that between 3,000 and 6,000 households could be involved in the larger research project.
A total of 52 of the 70 networks are available to Massillon's subscribers, according to
system vice president Bob Gessner.
The smaller research study actually grew out of the
company's April meeting with advertisers in New York, WorldGate manager of partner
programs Amy Valli said, adding that many had recommended a study on hyperlinking's impact
prior to the one already set for late 1999.
Kraft and GM have not yet finalized which brands will be
involved in the study, Valli said. But Warner-Lambert will include Listerine among its
participating products, while Sprint will promote its 2-cents-per-minute telephone rate.
By instantaneously linking viewers to the Web while they're
watching TV, Krisbergh said, WorldGate's technology has the potential to transform
television into a direct-response medium.
The television viewer, hitherto "relegated to [being]
a passive couch potato," can become an interactive participant while watching TV an
average of seven-and-a-half hours daily, he noted.
The aims of both studies will include gauging just how much
Channel HyperLinking might change consumers' viewing patterns and determining what
motivates them to interact with commercials or programs, Krisbergh said.
The average TV household is exposed to 180 commercials per
day, he added. If a static banner ad on the Web averages a 1 percent click-through -- or
the equivalent of two clicks per day on those 180 daily spots -- he guessed that
WorldGate's technology would top that rate.