‘Tonight’ to go interactive

NEW YORK — Jay Leno and “The Tonight Show” will introduce some interactive tricks into the latenight gabfest war starting early next year.

By January, Leno fans should be able to access guest bios, band info, trivia quizzes — and advertisers’ pitches — through graphic overlays at the top of their TV screens. They’ll be picking and choosing the info they want by using the arrow keys on a traditional remote control.

“This means you can be watching a band on ‘The Tonight Show,’ get some background info on the band and the song they’re performing, and then you can even buy the CD while you’re sitting there at home,” NBC spokesman Robert Silverman told Daily Variety.

Leno and Co.’s Peacock network is the first of the Big Three to link up with interactive TV service Wink Communications (Daily Variety, June 30).

NBC has already begun enhanced broadcasting of its NFL games, allowing viewers to get on-demand info like updates on around-the-league scores, team rosters and statistics, a glossary of football terms and a host of other pigskin trivia items.

With “The Tonight Show” and the NFL, NBC will be providing 8 hours of interactive TV each week. Other network shows are looking to “Wink” in the coming months.

“This is like the first day of school,” said NBC Interactive prexy Martin Yudkovitz. “This is brand-new technology, and we’re seeing what works best.”

Wink’s interactive approach is low-tech, according to industry analysts. It has made considerable broadcasting and cable inroads due to the fact that it requires no special hardware, no coin from consumers, and is relatively easy to use.

Wink announced last week, however, that Toshiba America Consumer Products will begin offering the first “Wink TV” sets to U.S. consumers in 1998.

Other programmers currently working with Wink include CBS Cable’s TNN (The Nashville Network), The Weather Channel and Court TV.

“Look for a number of new agreements to be announced at the Western Cable Show,” Wink spokesman Barak Kassar said.

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