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TV’s surf and turf

'Net use while watching TV rises 39% in '00

Roughly 25 million U.S. households log on to the Internet while they’re watching the TV — a 39% increase over last year, according to a study commissioned by cabler Showtime Networks.

Study, based on data collected earlier this year by Ascolese Associates and co-released with media research firm Paul Kagan Associates, also found that news, sitcom and sports programming collectively accounted for more than 90% of the simultaneous TV-Internet usage.

“We’re beginning to see more and more correlated programming, with shows like ‘Survivor’ and ‘(Who Wants to Be a) Millionaire’ offering online content to complement the broadcasts,” said Mark Greenberg, Showtime exec VP for corporate strategy and communications. “Programmers are realizing that some people want more than just a passive experience with television.”

Showtime’s research also found that PC penetration in the U.S. now tops 55 million households, with 45 million connected to the Web. Those figures rep increases of 22% and 36%, respectively, over 1999.

Supplemental surfing

Many users, however, are accessing content on the ‘Net that isn’t directly related to the television programs they’re watching, Greenberg said.

In fact, users often go online to find content that’s supplemental to the broadcast, such as stock quotes or sports scores. In effect, they’re creating their own homemade form of enhanced TV, or TV with direct links to concurrent content on the Web, he added.

That may imply that Internet-TV multitaskers are ready for more enhanced TV content, but webs and cablers are still approaching the market cautiously.

“We’re all still trying to figure out what is the best economic model,” Greenberg said. “You can’t just assume that ‘if you build it, they will come,’ because there’s way too much money at stake.”

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