Time Warner Gets Active With ITV Apps

Time Warner Cable is a staunch supporter of OCAP, the advanced software platform developed by Cable Television Laboratories Inc. that will allow cable MSOs to launch robust interactive services.

But Time Warner isn’t waiting for an Open Cable applications platform to launch interactivity. The MSO has an aggressive test schedule for the launch of interactive services, covering both small and large systems, and a host of applications.

“OCAP will make life really fun for a lot of applications providers, but we don’t necessarily want to wait” for OCAP to rollout interactivity, said Time Warner senior vice president Patricia Armstrong. Interactive content can run on lower-level boxes, she said. “It’s a chance to service a level of customer that’s very satisfied with the current box in this interim period of time.”

ITV tests are a natural evolution for Time Warner, she said, since it has fully deployed video-on-demand, digital video recorders and HDTV.

“The next step is ITV. We’ll try a little bit of news and information, weather, sports and stock quotes as one application, plus games,” she said.

Time Warner is trying out ITV services in Hawaii; Portland, Maine; LaPlace, La.; and Austin, Texas.

As in the past, Time Warner is letting Hawaii’s Oceanic Cablevision lead the way. “They are innovators,” Armstrong said. “They were the first to do VOD and one of the first to do [subscription VOD]. ITV comes naturally to them. It’s the next step in their mind.”

Oceanic is testing interactive advertising with 30-second spots using software from Navic Networks.

For example, an interactive ad for Mercedes might run with a banner that tells viewers to “click here” if they want more information.

Pizza Hut ads are also interactive, giving viewers the ability to find the chain’s closest restaurant.

Armstrong said Time Warner will roll out the Navic application in other markets. The MSO also is planning longer form advertising that would be VOD-server based.

Oceanic has also launched synced-to-broadcast interactivity from GoldPocket Interactive and GSN.

In Portland, Maine, Time Warner has already launched tests of interactive gaming service Buzztime and VOD indexing service Gotuit Media.

The BuzztimeR trivia channel includes six classic Buzztime categories: TV Trivia, History Trivia, Kids Only TriviaR, Music Trivia, Sports TriviaT and CountdownR. The games are part of Time Warner’s digital package lineup and are available at no extra charge to subscribers.

“Gotuit makes VOD more attractive,” she said. The company is indexing both National Hockey League and Scripps Network VOD content, according to Armstrong.

In La Place, Time Warner has launched an interactive gaming service from ICTV Inc. “It’s another place to try a different service and check and see how customers like it,” she said.

In Austin, BlueStreak technology Inc. is providing the MSO eight to 10 parlor games, which will be rolled out in a batch of systems, Armstrong said. The games include: Blackjack, Solitaire, Haunted Golf, Ming Pyramid, Kid’s Paint, Cannonball, Backgammon, Memory and Spades. The games run off a broadcast carousel at the headend.

The MSO is also using BlueStreak’s presentation engine, an execution engine, a software development kit and content validation tools, all working on Time Warner’s Scientific-Atlanta platform.

The MSO also is using Austin-based Biap Systems to launch a news and information interactive-TV service. “They provide a localized news and information service,” Armstrong said. “Austin [subscribers] can look and see what’s going on tonight. We’re ready to roll this out.”

Time Warner plans to launch similar services in other markets.

The news and information would be free, she said. The MSO is exploring various pricing options on the gaming side.

It all adds up to a whirlwind of testing activity for Time Warner. “The intention is to try a few different vendors and few different applications. We’re exploring all kinds of options on the gaming side,” she said.