NBC gives Intercast an Olympic-style sendoff

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Web/TV combo gets first big test, but will anyone be able to see it?

Intercast, the much-ballyhooed technology combining Internet content with TV broadcasts, makes its debut next month with the Summer Olympics.

But it remains to be seen whether Intercast is the first great step from the Internet to interactive TV or just another cool technology in search of a home.

NBC will use Intercast to provide background information and statistics for 70 hours of its coverage of the Olympics. CNN and QVC also will begin supplying Intercast content this month.

TV SIGNAL CARRIES DATA

Created by Intel Corp., Intercast embeds HTML code in the TV signal. Consumers with Intercast-equipped computers can watch the video portion of the signal while simultaneously viewing related Web pages sent by a broadcast or cable TV network. Computers with modems will also be able to link from the Intercast pages to the Internet.

NBC is shopping for one advertising agency partner to provide most of its Intercast content sponsors. The network will start its first sponsored Intercast pages this fall.

SHIPPING INTO ATLANTA MARKET

One major problem: Right now, there aren't any Intercast computers in the market.

With the Olympics less than a month away, Compaq Computer Corp. is only now shipping the first Intercast-ready computers to the Atlanta area. Other markets will roll out later.

An add-on for existing computers will be available for $150. But it will likely be months before the technology makes a dent in the market.

Another issue: the TV industry's ability to create compelling multimedia content.

"People don't buy Sega machines because they like their unique technology. They buy them to play `Sonic the Hedgehog,' " said Emily Green, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass.

Copyright July 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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