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Getting Interactive in Hawaii

GSN and Time Warner Cable’s Oceanic Cablevision last week launched a slate of interactive and synched-to-television games that viewers can play using their existing remotes and digital set-tops.

Backed by software and technology from GoldPocket Interactive Inc., Oceanic digital cable subscribers can now play along with standard cable programming via the 10 interactive shows offered each day by the former Game Show Network.

GSN has pioneered several interactive efforts, including GoldPocket-powered two-screen, PC/TV interactivity, but this is its first TV-only application.

“It really does take it to the next level,” GSN senior vice president of interactive John Roberts said. “It’s the Holy Grail of ITV.”

GSN is offering 10 programs — World Series of Blackjack, The Mole, Celebrity Mole, Fake-A-Date, Kenny vs. Spenny, Spy TV, Match Game, Family Feud, The Weakest Link and Lingo — on an interactive basis. Overall, the network carries 84 hours a week of interactive shows.

Oceanic has an estimated 200,000 digital set-tops — Scientific-Atlanta Inc. Explorer 2000-class units or above — that can access the interactivity through the standard S-A remote control.

GoldPocket installed its entire slate of products at the headend, including production, content and distribution tools. Users “play” against everyone else hooked up to GPI’s nationwide network, including people playing on PCs or wireless devices.

Viewers tune to GSN and hit “select” on their remote to activate the interactive programs.

“It’s just a win for everyone,” said Scott Newnam, president of GoldPocket. “Most of the heavy lifting is done in the production tools. The easy part is what happens in the headend.”

Users can track their performance against other Time Warner Cable players at the same time. A live on-air leaderboard airs twice each hour to keep viewers updated on who’s at the top of the list.

Oceanic and GSN are marketing the interactive feature in cross-channel spots and on the crawl at the bottom of GSN’s screen.

“They’ll be doing spots showing people doing playing games with their remotes,” Roberts said.

Customer-service representatives have also been trained to sell the feature.

Roberts said he expects discussions to quicken with other cable operators. There is no extra charge for the interactive programs. Rather, Roberts wants to use interactivity to drive up distribution for the 55 million-home GSN.

“We’re trying to show the value of GSN and how it can drive their digital set-top box business,” he said.

Newnam believes the Oceanic rollout will boost the ITV business.

“The first-mover networks and operators are already in discussions and are cutting their deals,” he said. “Now is the time that the followers are coming on. If you are not in discussions, you need to move.”