INTERACTIVE: WAVETOP UNVEILS WIRELESS HOME PC SERVICE WITH 20 SPONSORS

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Wavetop is expected to announce this week that it has signed up more than 20 advertisers for its wireless home PC service to go into beta testing later this month. A full launch is planned for the first quarter of next year.

$10,000-$30,000 PER QUARTER

Initial advertisers include Spiegel Catalog; Barnes & Noble; CyberMeals; Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln-Mercury Division; Microsoft Corp.'s Desktop Application Division; ADS Technology; and Consumer Info, a credit checking service of Experian, formerly known as TRW. Charter advertisers will not pay, although rates eventually will be between $10,000 and $30,000 quarterly.

WaveTop (www.wavetop.net), the consumer division of data broadcaster WavePhore, reaches consumers using wireless technology to embed information into the unused spectrum of Public Broadcasting Service broadcast TV signals. Content is automatically broadcast over airwaves directly into consumers' computers, whether they're online or not.

In addition to the WaveTop software, consumers need a special plug-in for their computers, generically called a TV tuner. The device can be an add-on (similar to desktop modems), priced at about $85; or, the tuner can be a plug-in board that goes inside the computer.

Some computer manufacturers are already building the boards into their PCs: Toshiba includes a TV tuner in all models; Gateway 2000 offers it as a standard feature on its Destination model; and Compaq Computer Corp. offers it in its PC Theater model.

While industry watchers are still skeptical as to how far consumers will go for push technology, WaveTop officials feel they can offer compelling reasons for consumers to purchase a tuner if the board isn't already in the computer.

"There are two reasons why consumers would buy a TV tuner. First, it allows you to watch TV on a PC. And, second, it gives you access to new content from data broadcasting services," said Sandy Goldman, WaveTop senior VP-general manager.

AGGRESSIVE STRATEGY PAYSOFF

WaveTop has been creating ripples in the push industry with aggressive promotion of its free service. Microsoft recently agreed to include the software and service in its Microsoft Windows 98 version.

"We're excited about WaveTop's method of delivering the Internet to home PC users in this alternative mode. It has great prospects and we're certainly interested in trying it out," said Peter Maluso, chief operating officer of iTraffic, Consumer Info's interactive media agency.

WaveTop plans to organize its content into eight channels. ZDNet and Time Inc. each will provide content for their own exclusively branded channels, while the service will offer six generically branded channels including NewsTop, StockTop, KidsTop, TechTop, FamilyTop and FunTop.

WaveTop has signed agreements with additional content providers including CBS Sports-Line, Quote.com, Time Inc. New Media, Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, The Weather Channel and Women's Wire.

Additional ad opportunities will include various-sized banner ads with rotating

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