GSN to play with viewers

Net bows interactive component for 'Millionaire,' 'Blackjack'

LAS VEGAS — GSN is becoming the first network to launch a daily schedule of shows with onscreen interactivity available to users of digital set-top boxes.

Program will initially launch in Hawaii, where the cable net is working in conjunction with operator Oceanic Time Warner. It aims to expand to other providers with significant digital rollouts within the year.

GSN had previously powered only play-along capabilities on computers. Other nets have offered onscreen interactivity for shows like “Wheel of Fortune” that required additional devices such as Microsoft’s WebTV, while some providers offer gameplay channels not tied to programs on digital cable and satellite.

GSN’s new offering marks the first recurring onscreen interactive TV rollout and a notable step forward for the iTV industry, which has been experiencing little growth outside of mobile phone initiatives.

“It’s imperative that we differentiate ourselves from other networks in the current environment, and offering our subscribers more is a way to do it,” said GSN senior VP of interactive John P. Roberts. “It makes sense for us since GSN is a brand that’s inherently interactive.”

Interactive shows will be part of the standard GSN offering to cable providers.

New project, which will air a total of about eight hours of interactive skeins per day, is being powered by the net’s long-standing technology partner, GoldPocket Interactive.

Programs being offered with onscreen iTV components include reruns of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and “Weakest Link,” as well as GSN originals like “Fake-a-Date” and “World Series of Blackjack.”

Net is also working with advertisers to offer interactive extras for their spots on GSN.

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