Dish, CNN Roll Out Interactive TV News

The Dish Network is going live with a CNN Enhanced TV channel, featuring a new interactive system that allows viewers to explore background on stories of interest through a simple TV and remote interface.

The Dish Network's parent company, satellite service provider EchoStar, employed technology provided by digital TV programming and equipment maker OpenTV to create the interactive TV news program. CNN Enhanced TV will allow viewers to continue watching CNN's live broadcast while navigating through up to five different CNN news reports in text format. The text journalism will in most cases be the same content featured on CNN's Web site.

Joel Hassell, senior vice president and general manager of OpenTV's North American satellite business, explained that interactive programming can be delivered over traditional cable service as well, allowing the extension of Internet-style information surfing to households without Internet connections: "Television is ubiquitous, but the Internet is not, as yet--so you have a number of households that can get a real benefit in terms of staying connected."



OpenTV's technology has also been used to run interactive ads for a variety of advertisers on Dish over the last year. One notable client was Mercedes Benz, whose ads allowed interested consumers to order a brochure, set up a test drive, or view "a photo gallery to see what the vehicle looks like as well as the car's specifications," Hassell said.

Hassell confirmed that EchoStar had tracked response rates, allowing a degree of response measurability similar to that pioneered by Google for online advertising, although EchoStar's data is confidential. He went on to say that targeted TV advertising is technically feasible using OpenTV's technology: "These are targetable ads, and OpenTV actually has developed some targeting technology." But Hassell also noted that "to date, EchoStar and various advertisers have opted not to target."

EchoStar exec Scott Higgins explained that the company has not offered targeted advertising based on personal information because of privacy concerns. "We can target based on anonymous information, but we have to be careful with the data we get from them," Higgins went on. "Everything has to be kept confidential."

Still, Higgins confirmed that the company had considered ads targeted with personal information, and might still implement them in the future. According to Higgins, possible routes to avoid violating customer privacy might include an incentive system in which subscribers receive bonus features, or discounts for agreeing to receive targeted advertising.

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