Time Warner chairman and CEO Gerald Levin preached the gospel of interactivity to the masses gathered Tuesday morning for NATPE’s keynote address at the Jackie Gleason Theater.

Hitting on now-familiar themes, Levin proclaimed that interactivity is for real, that it will blur the distinction between broadcast and cable and that it will benefit most those programmers who are able to establish or maintain brand names on which the television audience can depend.

“The winners will be those who not only face up to change but embrace it, who see interactivity as the chance to create new relationships with consumers, who seize the opportunities to succeed in every form of software, whatever the venue — broadcast, cable,film, print or multimedia.”

But Levin’s sermon also had a harder edge: Those who fail to embrace the interactive revolution will be lost in a multichannel universe. He disputed views like those of Michael Eisner, Disneyrepeatedly questioned the practicality of interactivity, claiming it will induce absolute bewilderment and turn viewers into “zombies.”

According to Levin, “They’re wrong for the simple reason that the human mind welcomes rather than rejects variety.”

He further warned: “The losers will be those who decide that they can wait and watch, that there’s no urgency involved, that they can go on working and producing in splendid isolation from a technology that will transform the way people live, work, entertain and educate themselves.”

Levin said switched, digital multimedia — better known as the electronic superhighway — is not a mirage, wishful thinking or hype. The Time Warner topper believes the infopike will change the way consumers perceive the world.

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