Studies Find Gap Between Future, Present ITV Customers

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Two recent studies of interactive television differ greatly between what potential customers say they want from the service and what current customers are actually using from the ITV service they already have.

One study surveyed 1,000 users of WorldGate's service, which adds Web content to ads and programs, and the other conducted by interactive entertainment research firm TechTrends surveyed 3,000 potential ITV users.

The two studies contradict each other when it comes to enhanced Internet features during television advertising.

A recent study by Jupiter Communications, New York, projected that by 2004, 29 million households will be using interactive television. By that time, interactive ad spending is projected to reach $4.2 billion, with an additional $5.7 billion coming from home shopping through interactive television.

The differences in the WorldGate and TechTrends studies seem to point to an overall lack of information and education on the part of consumers when it comes to this burgeoning industry.

The TechTrends study -- in which more than 60 percent of those polled said they would pay as much as $15 per month for an ITV service that included Internet content during programs -- reported that people ranked customized interactive advertising as the least appealing facet of ITV.

"When we asked the people about ads, it really turned them off," said Laurence J. Bloom, senior analyst at Tech Trends Inc., Boston. "People want more information during programs, but they feel apprehensive when it comes to ads."

In the study of customers of WorldGate, Trevose, PA, eight out of 10 people using the service to access Internet-related content during an ad or program said the service is valuable and important. Nielsen Media Research, New York, conducted the study.

Twenty-two percent of those polled said they are more likely to use the service during an advertisement compared to 15 percent during a sports event and 15 percent during a sitcom. Also, 40 percent of those polled said they wanted more reminders about which advertisements came with additional content. The average session during a commercial lasted 1.17 minutes, while the average session during a TV program lasted 2.55 minutes.

In addition, Wink Inc., Alameda, CA, reports that for 3,500 interactive ads aired last quarter, 42 percent of users responded positively when asked if they wanted more information during a commercial. Wink uses a different system during ads, simply asking questions instead of providing Internet content.

"I am not surprised by the differences, really," Bloom said. "I think one of the reasons is that when you have an opportunity to use the product, it's a lot different from when you are just given a description of possible functions.

"Though they are the same target market, their experience is so different because they actually have the service. It completely skews the data," Bloom said. "But it shows people need to get their hands on the service and get educated. Current subscribers [who] are familiar with interacting with customized and targeting ads love the technology. There is a problem initiating and educating consumers, but once they start using it, they never want to give it up."

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