ITV Lives! Gray TV Stations Set for ‘Clickable TV’

Interactive television once vied with the Internet (and dedicated online services) as the best conduit for interactive content. That fell by the wayside in the mid-1990s.

Today, ITV solutions are largely limited to simpler Internet-like apps like photo collections, Yellow Pages search, customized weather, real estate and auto search, games and electronic program guides. Almost all of it comes via cable TV and broadband video providers (like AT&T U-verse). There is very limited advertising support for these solutions.

Other interactive TV apps are still out there, however. As broadcasters consider their multi-channel futures, there’s been some pickup. This week, Atlanta-based Gray Communications, a 36-station group reaching 7 million homes, said it was launching a remote control driven “Clickable TV” service by Boston-based Backchannelmedia, which already serves 32 stations, including some Media General, Hearst-Argyle and LIN-TV outlets. The service initially launched field trials in May 2008.

Users of Clickable TV use their remotes to activate small “bugs,” or icons, located at the bottom of their TV screen. The icons indicate a “clickable moment” and send bookmarks of the content to users’ Web browsers.

The rub, of course, is it isn’t a fully interactive solution. Users need to access the content on their Web-enabled phone or PC. But it is a new channel for advertising. TV stations can sell advertising on a “per click” basis in addition to impression-based TV commercials. It also provides user data on viewer interaction. Is it more meaningful than flashing URLs? It might be.

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