On Command explores TV Web access in hotels

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If On Command Corp. has its way, it will deliver the Internet on TV in business-class hotel chains within three years. And it will offer advertisers a way to deliver TV and Web ads to those hotel rooms.

The company, run by former AT&T Corp. exec VP Robert Kavner, next month will start in several dozen hotels a test of a revised in-room system giving guests access to the World Wide Web; e-mail; on-demand movies and lifestyle or business videos; videogames; and telecasts of out-of-town sports games.

On Command, which also owns SpectraVision, is the leading provider of hotel pay-per-view movies with its On Command and SpectraVision set-top boxes in about 900,000 rooms in 3,000 hotels in the U.S. and about 100 international hotels.

ADVERTISER BENEFITS

With the new system, Mr. Kavner wants to offer advertisers a way to run TV spots, menu screen "brought to you by" messages and Web banner ads.

"We are in the sweet spot" for reaching affluent, busy business people, said Mr. Kavner.

Assuming the test delivers, Mr. Kavner next spring will begin rolling out the new system across the hotel network through the year 2000.

BANNER-STYLE ADS

Starting this quarter, On Command will begin selling still banner-style ads on the menus of the current in-room systems.

Ad pricing isn't yet set.

On Command, based in San Jose, Calif., is believed to be consulting with Western International Media Corp., West Hollywood, Calif., about ad strategies and also is expected to recruit an executive to develop ad programs.

Mr. Kavner declined to comment on those reports.

MENU OFFERINGS

With the new system to be tested, a guest who turns on the TV will see a menu offering access to regular TV, movies, sports telecasts, short videos, videogames and the Internet. The guest would navigate the Internet with a wireless keyboard.

Mr. Kavner said the Web service would highlight areas--travel, business news, investments, local information--guests likely would want.

Also, guests will get an e-mail account at sign-on and can have e-mail forwarded to their regular e-mail service after they check out.

"I think it will be a very valuable offer," Mr. Kavner said.

T-1 LINE WEB ACCESS

On Command expects to charge less than $10 for overnight Web access on fast T-1 lines offering 50 times the speed of a 28.8K modem.

On Command tested hotel Internet service earlier this year using proprietary technology from WebTV Networks, bought recently by Microsoft Corp. The system On Command plans to roll out will run on Microsoft's Windows operating system and utilize Intel Corp.'s chips.

Mr. Kavner, a former interactive guru at AT&T and Creative Artists Agency, came aboard as president-CEO of On Command last October when it merged with then-rival SpectraVision.

Copyright October 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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