Part of Liberty Media Corp.'s grand plan to share ownership of Game Show Network with Sony Corp. was exploring the frontiers of interactivity.
Though standalone interactive outfits have struggled in the marketplace, GSN has been able to experiment with interactivity while relying on revenue from its traditional basic-cable channel.
And though ITV has taken a backseat to video-on-demand, GSN is quietly upping the ante. It recently debuted two new synched-to-broadcast, PC-based interactive games: Friend or Foe
and Russian Roulette.
The half-hour shows follow Whammy! Interactive
at 10 p.m., giving GSN a 90-minute block of interactive fare.
"We want to be known as the network that leads the charge in this arena," said GSN senior vice president of interactive and online entertainment John Roberts.
Game Show now has 35 hours a week of synched-to-broadcast ITV, and counts hundreds of thousands active players. On the night Friend or Foe
and Russian Roulette
debuted, 92 percent of the interactive-game players stayed for the entire 90 minutes, he said.
Roberts said an average viewer remains for 29 minutes — basically the length of a half-hour show.
35%: CABLE MODEMS
GoldPocket Interactive, a pioneer in the ITV development space, is handling the interactive software for the two new shows. It also provides the interactivity for Whammy! and Greed Interactive.
Perhaps more interesting is the speed at which GSN's PC players connect. The interactive gamers have a PC and TV in the same room, which allows them to play along against other Internet users while they watch.
Some 35 percent of those users said they have a cable-modem connection, said Roberts, while another 12 percent said they have DSL. In other words, nearly half of GSN participants are high-speed subscribers.
That's causing MSOs to take notice.
"We may create versions of Web games for the broadband audience, with all the bells and whistles," Roberts said.
MSOs have began to look at gaming applications and tiers as part of a higher level of cable-modem service.
"Operators have to put that on their radar screen," Roberts said. "We have the content to do that."
A second area of MSO interest, Roberts said, is in dedicated gaming content for currently deployed, lower-level digital set-tops, as well as higher-end boxes. "You could use a virtual channel as a stepping stone to ITV," he said.
Refreshing content goes a long way to boosting usage, Roberts said. GSN will add three to four new online games over the next several months. Use of Greed Interactive
had flattened out prior to the launch of Whammy!, he said. "But when Whammy! launched, Greed
traffic tripled," Roberts said.
Roberts said GSN is looking to start trials late this year or early next. It's zeroing in on the Western Show to showcase the new product.
GSN uses GoldPocket's EventMatrix technology to send interactive, play-along content across the country on a GoldPocket network. User names and scores for those playing at home are broadcast live and air twice during each show.
The technology allows users to interact with programs using a PC, AOLTV, Ultimate TV or MSNTV. Home Box Office and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. also use GoldPocket for interactive fare.