A new arrangement between enhanced-broadcast provider Wink
Communications Inc. and Showtime Networks Inc. will make upgrades by customers to the
premium service mirror the impulse-type buys of pay-per-view.
Currently, customers who watch a Showtime barker or other
advertisement on television generally dial a toll-free number to order the service
upgrade. The information is routed from the toll-free provider to the cable system, which
then prepares the billing and set-top-authorization processes necessary to complete the
But with the new arrangement between Wink and Showtime,
viewers of a Showtime ad can use their remote control to order the upgrade, bypassing the
toll-free "middleman," said Jeff Morris, vice president of new media and
technology development for Showtime.
"This will shorten the response time by a very
significant factor, and it lets us take advantage of the impulse technology that resides
in set-tops," Morris said, adding that in an addressable system, the entire ordering
process with Wink will take less than 24 hours.
Showtime is the first premium network to sign an agreement
"We also see Wink's technology as a means to
offer additional value to a Showtime subscription by providing viewers with easy,
on-demand access to specific content, such as scheduling information and movie
information," Morris added.
Those programming enhancements could include plot lines,
character histories and future play times, as well as contests and polls, executives said.
Wink's technology is currently capable of running on
set-tops made by General Instrument Corp., Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and Pioneer New Media
Technologies. In Japan, Toshiba Corp., Sony Electronics Inc., Matsushita Consumer
Electronics and JVC are selling televisions that include "the Wink engine,"
according to company officials.
Wink is already linked with NBC, Courtroom Television
Network, The Weather Channel, and Turner Network Television, and other content providers,
like CNN Interactive, are testing Wink. On the MSO side, Wink secured carriage agreements
last year with Charter Communications Inc. for its Los Angeles system and with
Tele-Communications Inc. for a test on its Headend in the Sky service.
Maggie Wilderotter, president and CEO of Wink, said the
deal shows that cable operators "can now experience huge savings with automatic
pay-service sign-ups, with more profits from convenient ordering of pay services."
Alan Thygesen, vice president of content, tools and
developer relations for Wink, said operators sometimes have to pay as much as $10 per lead
submitted to them by national direct-marketing organizations, and Wink's technology
can help them to bypass those fees.