Olympics Coming, But Not on ITV

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The 6 million-plus U.S. homes with access to interactive-television
programming won't be offered anything special during the Olympic Games next
month.

'We haven't found an approach or business model that would support the cost
of an ITV product,' NBC Olympics executive vice president Gary Zenkel said.

Of the major broadcasters, NBC has been one of the more progressive in terms
of adding layers of interactivity to its programming.

Earlier this month, NBC and Wink Communications Inc. launched a virtual
channel on DirecTV Inc. that offers on-demand news programming and interactive
commerce.

And last year, NBC allowed viewers of sitcom Just Shoot Me to vote on
one of three potential endings for an episode.

So why would the network pursue a high-definition product for the Olympics,
but not offer viewers interactive scores and other interactive-TV content,
considering the fact that the interactive universe dwarfs the number of homes
with high-definition sets?

The key reason, Zenkel said, is that unlike HDNet -- which offered to provide
equipment and subsidize the costs of shooting the games in high-definition -- no
interactive-TV provider was willing to help foot the bill for interactive
Olympic programming.

Another important factor that deterred NBC was the number of cable and
satellite homes with digital set-tops that enable interactivity, NBC Digital
Media vice president of business development Carla Sinatra said.

'Had we been at 10 million [homes] this time, we might have a different
story,' she added.

NBC did consider using Microsoft Corp.'s 'UltimateTV' set-top to allow
viewers to access multiple camera angles for some Olympics events, Sinatra said.
But that wouldn't have been practical, Zenkel noted.

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