Internet service provider America Online is in the final stages of producing an interactive TV service.
The service, dubbed AOL TV, is being built on the back of the creative infrastructure of Netchannel, which it recently acquired.
"Our aim is to leverage the convenience of the Internet and TV to make AOL a part of everyday life," Barry Schuler, president of AOL Interactive Services, told 'VNU Newswire'. "Normal people don't buy technology, they buy the application of technology. They don't say 'yo let's go to that cool Java site."
AOL is working on merging the interactivity of TV with the Internet. If you are watching a football game, for example, you can call up friend from your AOL 'buddy list' and talk to them in real time onscreen, while you are watching the match, explained Schuler.
Alternatively, if you are watching a holiday programme you can call up flight details, prices and availability and - if you are feeling spontaneous - make a booking.
"We are creating a better version of TV, not making the Internet into something it isn't," stressed Schuler.
The service will include a creative TV navigator, so that if you have cable TV you will be able to track down the programme you want quickly from the many channels on offer.
Jack Davies, president of AOL International, confirmed to 'VNU Newswire' that it was another route into getting people online. He also believes it will create yet another avenue for member loyalty and a switching barrier if they want to change services.
"The cost of a PC, or technophobia, stops some people getting online. AOL TV will be a way of drawing these people in," he said.
Davies was adamant that the service will not compete head on with TV. "On the contrary, we are piggybacking on TV and its huge success," he said.
So when will the service go live? Davies declined to comment, but said it is yet another project that AOL is investing heavily in right now. "We again are not investing in fringe or appealing to the technology elite, it will be truly mass market," he said.
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