Local interactive TV caught napping

Ex-Australian Broadcasting Authority board members Tim O'Keefe and Peter Webb, who both head their own digital media consultancies, said it was possible that Australia's uptake of interactive television would echo that of the UK, where it took three years to attain widespread consumer appeal.

They said that although it would not necessarily take interactive television that long to reach the same levels of popularity locally, the UK interactive television industry was "much more sophisticated" than its Australian counterpart, they said.

The British Broadcasting Corporation has dedicated 70 staff to "repurposing" content specifically for interactive television, whereas its free-to-air Australian counterparts used existing staff to "multi-purpose" content non-specifically, they said.

Commercial television stations were still stuck in the "contemplative stage, with technical problems still to be resolved and business models still to be drawn up", Webb said.

Interactive television in Australia will get off to a "ragged start", he said.

The consultants said viable business models and significant investor commitment would still need to be found in order to kick-start the country's interactive television industry after January 1 2001, when datacasting licences take effect.

Investors in interactive television operations would need to be both adventurous and patient, as significant revenues were only expected to be achieved through a critical customer base, they said.

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