Move over DRTV; Time Inc. Tests Interactive Television

By Jenkins, Caroline | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, September 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Move over DRTV; Time Inc. Tests Interactive Television


Jenkins, Caroline, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Now that more TVs are open to two-way communication, buying a subscription to Sports Illustrated is as easy as changing the channel. But, critics wonder, will viewers actually use the system?

As interactive television rolls into living rooms across the country and viewers begin wielding their remotes to chat with fellow "Survivor" watchers, publishers--like other advertisers--are hoping America is ready to shop during the commercials.

The promise of interactive television has been on the horizon for a decade, but now that most major cable and satellite operators have finally digitally rewired their systems for more involving and responsive viewing, the technology is catching up with the hype. And publisher interest is piqued.

"Every consumer magazine publisher has a fantasy about using television to penetrate the market on a larger, national level," says Michael Sheehy, circulation business director for Wenner Media. "For most, it's just a dream. But for others, [interactive television] could possibly make that a reality."

Not surprisingly, AOL Time Warner is the first to test this subscription-on-demand concept. In July, Sports Illustrated debuted 60- to 120-second interactive spots on another AOL Time Warner property, Turner Network Television (TNT). So far, the results are "pleasantly surprising," says Ayanna Victorm, marketing manager for Time Inc.'s consumer marketing division. While she won't disclose specific numbers, Victorin says, "There is definitely the potential to expand [interactive commercials] to other Time Inc. magazines in the future."

The magazine is using a fast-growing interactive system called Wink, which superimposes a red stylized "i" on the screen during a commercial. A few clicks of the remote later, and a viewer's subscription is in the mail. There are no forms to fill out, no credit card information requests, no phone numbers to remember. In other words, it's the perfect technology match for impulse purchasing.

But it's also a soft offer, and because no credit card information is exchanged-- consumers are sent a bill in the mail a few weeks later--interactive may not prove as valuable as other new business sources that collect the money upfront.

Wink, which does not charge users, is currently available to more than 3.2 mil lion satellite and cable households in North America. (There are about 4.5 million interactive users in the United States.) The company charges advertisers an initial production fee and then pockets a percent of revenue from the sales generated by the commercials. …

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