HBO Gets Interactive For Costas' New Show

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On the Record with Bob Costas, Home Box Office's new sports magazine show, includes a major Internet tie-in with which the network hopes to drive users to its Web site.

The 12-week series, which kicked off last Wednesday, invites viewers to interact with the veteran sportscaster and his guests through live chats, polls and direct questions, said HBO Interactive Ventures vice president Sarah Cotsen.

Immediately after each HBO telecast, the show will continue at HBO.com. Costas will invite viewers to participate online with him and his guests.

"This is the first time we've fully integrated [the Web] with a live show," Cotsen said.

The interactive applications, facilitated by software provider GoldPocket Interactive, can handle up to 2 million users at a time. The technology also allows Web surfers with varying modem speeds to receive and upload information at the same time.

Users log in with a name and password registered at the show's home page (http://www.hbo.com/ontherecord/).

The site features a clock that counts down the minutes and seconds to the start of the interactive show.

Cotsen hopes the site won't draw just sports fans, but users interested in HBO programming. From there, she believes users will access other areas of HBO.com.

"The Internet show is designed to take advantage of the unique nature of the Web, with fans at home able to test their knowledge in various subjects against other live opponents as opposed to just playing along-in effect, placing them in the program itself," Cotsen said.

HBO.com also developed noninteractive applications so users can submit queries for the following week's question-and-answer session. Sports fans can offer feedback on issues discussed during the previous show; preview an upcoming episode and its scheduled guests; or suggest future topics and guests.

The Internet tie-in is one of several elements HBO hopes will distinguish On the Record
from other sports-oriented talk shows. The fast-paced offering will focus on topical sports issues and personalities from the playing field, front office and entertainment world, HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said.

"The show will revolve around his talents as a commentator and an interviewer," Greenburg said. "The show will remind people that Costas is one of the most gifted interviewers on television today."

Greenburg said ratings aren't as important as having a personality like Costas appear on the network.

"This is not a ratings-driving show, but rather it's creating a positive image for HBO and creating a buzz for the network in the marketplace," he said.

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