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London Eyed As Test Site For InterActive TV

Tuesday, July 13, 1999 - 00:00

Souped-up remote controls will transform Canada's living rooms into virtual malls, studios and video stores -- and Londoners could get the first test drive. Rogers Communications Inc. and Microsoft Corp. announced yesterday they'll team up to speed delivery of interactive television to Canadians. The new era will be ushered in next year when TV viewers surf the Web and exchange e-mail -- common technologies on personal computers.

Microsoft has staked out a $600-million share in Rogers (a related story is on Page D3), which may test some of the new products in London, said John Tory, president of Rogers Cablesystems, a subsidiary of Rogers.

"That could well be the case . . . London's high up on the list," he said.

Using digital set-top boxes already available in London, viewers will be able to pay extra to subscribe to new services using software provided by Microsoft.

Your on-ramp to the information super highway may move from the office desk to the easy chair.

Sports fans won't have to wait for announcers to get relevant statistics -- they'll point their remote and click.

Foodies will find recipes from their favourite cooking shows.

And those who tire of weekend trudges to video stores will soon find an impressive selection of movies available any time of the day with a push of a button.

The latter will be a death knell for video stores, said Alan Cook, who heads up two Vancouver firms that teach corporations to make money in emerging media.

If you thought nightly battles over the remote have been heated, brace yourself for new choices Cook expects in coming years:

Want to watch a Clint Eastwood flick? Use your remote to search through thousands of movies and you'll feel lucky.

Tired of American broadcasters missing the puck in hockey? Interactive TV will let you choose the camera. Was that a goal? You choose to view the replay.

Whether you live to shop or shop to live, you'll find an explosion of buying opportunities fine-tuned to your tastes. Are you a jogger? A sports shoe company may pay you to accept ads on its newest products.

While the Internet offers users a similar array of choices, it delivers poor-quality video. Slowly.

Computer technology will merge with digital television. With Bill Gates in the driver's seat, expect rapid change, said Cook, president of Emerge Online Inc. and New Vision Strategic Communications Inc.

"Microsoft moves quickly. When they put money behind something, they're serious."

Digital-quality music will be available, he said. In coming years, viewers will be able to bank, customize their weather forecasts and play along with game show contestants. A.M.-4-L.

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