Prime Ticket mulls interactive plan

Prime Ticket Network is looking at offering its subscribers interactive sports programming.

The L.A.-based cable sports channel is talking with ACTV Inc., a provider of interactive services used by Canada’s Le Groupe Videotron in Montreal.

Prime Ticket has 4.2 million subscribers.

Something different

“There are so many sports events on TV,” said Nick Rhodes, Prime’s vice president of business development. “Interactivity will differentiate a particular event from others. ”

ACTV’s system permits viewers to choose from as many as four different sources of material by using their remote control.

In Montreal, the 200,000 subscribers to Videotron’s Videoway service can select different camera angles at a hockey game, or more information about a topic within a newscast.

To test consumer demand, Rhodes will oversee focus groups next month.

Sample viewers will be able to select replays during a game, Spanish-language audio tracks and interactive commercials.

But Rhodes cautions that though sports programs are much easier to make interactive since a game typically uses six to 10 cameras, there are technical hurdles to overcome.

For one thing, ACTV requires committing one cable channel to each of the viewer’s options. With channel capacity currently limited in most areas, digital compression will have to be used–a technology that’s still a year away.

“This won’t occur overnight,” said Rhodes. “We see this happening when a significant number of operators have sufficient channel capacity.”

Reportedly, talks between ACTV and Prime began last spring, when John Lack was president of the technology company.

Since then, Lack has moved to ESPN, the nation’s largest sports channel, as marketing and programming executive VP.

Reached in New York, Lack said he was not talking to his former company about bringing the service to ESPN.

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