Interactive Gambling Is Biggest ITV Moneymaker

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San Francisco -- A key barrier preventing American cable operators and satellite providers from making as much money selling interactive-TV services as their counterparts in the United Kingdom could be U.S. laws barring gambling via TV.

OpenTV Corp. CEO Jim Chiddix told National Show attendees Saturday News Corp.’s British Sky Broadcasting generates $80 per customer annually in revenue from interactive TV, 65% from gambling. OpenTV supplies software to BSkyB, which lets customers play poker and casino games.

Even though U.S. cable satellite-TV can’t market similar interactive gambling services, Chiddix said there’s money to be made selling other products. BSkyB generates about 40% of ITV its revenue from things like interactive shopping, voting and gaming. Several university professors attended Chiddix’s lecture, titled “Cable Telecommunication Interactive Television Applications: Issues, Challenges and Solutions.”

Chiddix walked attendees though the evolving ITV sector, from Time Warner’s Full Service Network in Orlando, Fla., in the 1990s, to current ITV services that use OpenTV software, including Foxtel in Australia and Dish Network in the U.S.

Chiddix reviewed the rocky history of interactive advertising service Wink Communications, which is now owned by Wink, noting he believed Wink was ahead of its time. He also said Wink’s strategy of paying cable operators and programmers to use its service, with the hope that advertisers would pay a premium for enhanced ads, was not effective. The few cable operators that cut distribution deals with Wink probably did so in order to learn about the technology, and later develop it on their own, Chiddix added.

In response to a question involving viewers that fast-forward through commercials, Chiddix said he has heard ideas “kicked around” about advertisers considering paying viewers to watch ads, or giving cable and satellite subscribers the option to pay a premium to receive commercial-free programming. He also OpenTV has developed new software for digital video recorders “that allows time shifting of interactivity.” The software would allow subscribers with access to networks that offer ITV programming to access features like multiple camera angles or statistics whenever they want from their DVRs.