EchoStar Communications Corp. said last week that it will
start to deliver interactive-broadcast programming to personal computers in the fourth
quarter of this year.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based EnterMedia Network Co. will deliver
its "EMNetwork" interactive programming to the direct-broadcast satellite
company's Dish Network subscribers.
EMNetwork is a 24-hour service with scheduled video
programming backed by interactivity, such as chat rooms, viewer polls and interstitial
advertising. Initial programming will include music-related shows, and the company plans
to add business, information, news and movie channels in the near future.
An EMNetwork spokeswoman said it was the "shared
experience" of the new medium that would appeal to subscribers. "They can ask
other viewers if they've ever been to a concert by that artist, or if they own that
CD [compact disc]," she said.
Because the programming is scheduled, rather than viewed
on-demand, viewers will have a captured online audience with which to discuss the movies,
current events or concerts as they air.
Personal computer-owners would need to install a specially
designed PCI card to receive the interactive programming via satellite.
An EchoStar spokesman said the company has not yet
determined whether the EMNetwork service will be broadcast from EchoStar's full-CONUS
(continental United States) slot at 119 degrees west longitude, or whether subscribers
would need second dishes to receive the signals. In the past, the company has said that it
will likely use its partial-CONUS spectrum at 148 and 61.5 degrees west to deliver niche
services, including data and interactive programming.
EchoStar is also developing a television set-top box that
would incorporate interactive programming.
Pricing has not yet been set. According to EchoStar, the
company will continue to offer additional interactive-broadcasting services in the future
on an a la carte basis, rather than selling them in packages, as it typically does with
its video programming.
"EchoStar is proud to be the first satellite
distributor to provide interactive-broadcast services," said Mark Jackson, senior
vice president of satellite services at EchoStar, in a release.
EMNetwork's interactive service, which launched in
June, is available free-of-charge over the Internet. The company is also in talks with
several cable operators, and it expects to make announcements within the next month or so.