As if being one of the top Wall Street media analysts
covering the ever-changing broadcast- and cable-television industries weren't enough,
Tom Wolzien apparently moonlights in writing interactive-television software.
The sideline came to light last week, when Wolzien, a
senior research analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., sold the patent rights to his
software application, "The Wolzien Process," to ACTV Inc.
ACTV, a New York-based interactive-television-software
company, will couple Wolzien's software -- which was designed to link video and audio
programming with the Internet -- with its own interactive offering called
Wolzien is no stranger to technology: Before joining
Sanford C. Bernstein, he spent 16 years at NBC, where all of the news-technology
operations reported to him.
While at NBC, Wolzien was behind the first use of robot
cameras at NBCNightly News, and he was also responsible for computer
systems used by more than 3,000 news personnel at NBC.
"I've been involved in managing engineering and
looking at systems for a long time," Wolzien said last week.
He added that he got the idea for the software after
studying the flaws of television and the Internet, trying to figure out a way to make the
two media work better together.
"TV does a great job of waving its arms and saying,
'Look at me,'" Wolzien said. "The Web does a wonderful job providing
additional information and getting it to a large number of people."
His process allows consumers to "pull" relevant
content from the Internet that is synchronized to a specific video program, audio program,
commercial message or news story delivered via broadcast television, cable, satellite or
ACTV's HyperTV service enables content producers and
advertisers to "push" Internet content to consumers.
ACTV chairman William Samuels said Wolzien's process
"expands our e-commerce and advertising plans. It allows us to be major players in
the world of convergence."
The software can be used on a personal computer and
eventually integrated into set-top boxes to allow users to access the Internet directly
from their TVs. ACTV cited research stating that one in five households currently has a
television and a PC in the same room.
"This business is huge," ACTV unit HyperTV
Networks Inc. president Bruce Crowley said. "One in five households is equal to 18
million households. That's an 80 percent increase since December 1997. There is an
exploding trend toward convergence. This is a new way to add value for the consumer."
Crowley added that the Wolzien process would allow ACTV to
attract additional revenue streams from television and Internet advertisers, as well as
from direct marketers.
ACTV would garner fees from three sources, Crowley said:
license fees from programmers; advertising and sponsorship fees shared with programmers;
and advertising and transaction fees from a planned HyperTV Internet site.
Wolzien received the patent last June, after applying for
it more than three years ago. ACTV bought the patent, which will be held by a newly formed
venture, Media Online Services, to be owned and operated by ACTV's HyperTV unit.