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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shelley Taylor, US: 1-650/473-6514, UK: 44(0)20-7243-3438 or shelley@infofarm.com

MAD COUCH DISEASE REACHES EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS

London, 25 Octoberů Findings from landmark research on the current practices in UK, US and French interactive television (iTV) services were previewed today by Shelley Taylor & Associates. StayTuned2 is the most recent version of international research that evaluates iTV viewer interface, and documents the latest outbreak of the interactive television viewer disease Mad Couch Disease. Research shows that national borders have been unsuccessful in containing new strains of the extremely contagious viewer affliction, first diagnosed by Shelley Taylor in January 2001. Symptoms of the disease have spread rapidly in households with interactive television causing viewer vertigo, set top boxing, remote control anxiety, and perpetual channel surfing. Research conducted in Shelley Taylor & Associates' Center for Consumer Disease Research has linked Mad Couch's symptoms to e-commerce user interface diseases, Abandoned Shopping Cart Syndrome and Post-Transaction Anxiety Disorder, diseases often blamed for many of the dot.com deaths.

StayTuned2 evaluates 50 iTV services, including cable and satellite providers such as DirectTV Interactive, DirectTV UltimateTV, and others in the US as well as Telewest, BSkyB in the UK, TPS and Canal Satellite in France. Programs evaluated include virtual channels (e.g., Barnes & Noble, ESPN), broadcast (e.g., Crime Scene Investigation, Sky News and Sports, Bloomberg) and dual screen interactivity (e.g., Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Weakest Link).

"Interactive television has not been developed to meet the needs of the hungry viewer who, bored with regular television programming, sent letters to broadcasters demanding that they be allowed to buy Ally McBeal's purse while watching the show, or bet on horses while tuned to the races," says Shelley Taylor, the publisher of StayTuned2. "In fact, current iTV initiatives risk repeating the early and costly mistakes of website design. Just as e-commerce sites jettisoned all traditional merchandising wisdom, ignored consumer needs and marched blindly in the direction of false profits, iTV companies are focusing on technology rather than creating a compelling viewing experience."

Ben Taylor, director of the research project elaborates, " iTV has the potential to far exceed the growth and adoption rate of DVDs by providing similar enhancements while offering the information access of the internet. The challenges for iTV players are to give viewers control of the experience and to use the medium of television for all that its worth."

SOME KEY HIGHLIGHTS

The Winners

  • The best interactive television providers by country are: UltiimateTV on DirecTV (US), Sky (UK) and TPS (France)
  • Some of the best interactive programs in our review include CBS's Crime Scene Investigation (on UltimateTV, US); SportsExpress Formula 1 (on TPS); Elle Cuisine (on Canal), Disney Studio (on Sky), SkyNews, HSBC (on Telewest Active Digital).

The Path of Greatest Resistance

  • UK iTV services make it the most difficult for viewers to find interactive programming, by failing to offer familiar and conventional mechanisms for finding these programs. In the US and France viewers who surf through channels will encounter some virtual channels providing interactivity.  While UK iTV services do provide ways to find interactivity they would be more successful at converting viewers if interactivity could be found interspersed with traditional broadcast content.
  • Interactive services, as part of the provider's service, are poorly marketed 1) on screen during general broadcasts, 2) in brochures in bills or in the box, 3) on packaging for set top boxes and 4) in stores.

The Medium is the Message

  • Web on TV, web for TV and virtual channels, while taking advantage of the market penetration of television screens, fail to deliver a viewer experience that enhances the broadcast television experience.
  • The success of interactive television will be based on the degree to which broadcast is enhanced by compelling interactive and contextual content.

Fool's Gold?

Huge sums have been spent on the infrastructure to enable interactive television but few iTV services have seen any returns. Early failures at generating  revenues are probably more to do with the lack of a satisfying experience for viewers than to fundamental problems with the business model.

  • It is no wonder that iTV advertising has all but disappeared. With services that only turn people off, how can iTV companies expect to them to turn them on?

Television commerce (T-Commerce) was once lauded as a potential source of tremendous revenue, an opportunity for monetizing interactive television. Most iTV shops bar the door to transactions to all but the most tenacious shoppers by failing to mimic even the most basic brick and mortar shopping conventions (product information, customer support, order tracking, to name a few).

Shelley Taylor & Associates is a management consulting and business publishing firm focusing on management quality issues, with offices in the United States and the United Kingdom. Other publications include Click-Here Commerce 2000, an international study the success factors of e-commerce, and Return to Sender, a study of online order fulfillment. For more information contact 1-650-473-6514 (US) or 44-207-243-3438(UK), or visit our web site at www.infofarm.com.

The research was launched at a breakfast briefing in London on 25 October, 2001.  The full study, which includes a company-by-company analysis and specific examples of best and worst practices, is available for purchase from the London office (+44 (0)20 7243 3428), cultivators@infofarm.com or US office (001 650 473 6514). The Executive Summary will be available to staff reporters upon request. Interviews with Shelley Taylor can be scheduled by calling the UK office of Shelley Taylor & Associates (tel:44 (0)20 7243 3438), Shelley's UK mobile (44 7768455 671).

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