TIME WARNER SERVICE WON'T START QUITE FULL

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The long-awaited debut of Time Warner's Full Service Network in Orlando won't live up to all the media hype, top executives at the media giant told Advertising Age.

Gerald Levin, Time Warner's chairman-ceo, told Ad Age he's "reasonably optimistic" about getting the interactive cable TV test up and running by April. "It's just a matter of how many services we can get up," Mr. Levin said.

Some services will continue to develop over the summer and through the year, Mr. Levin said after a news conference last week at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention in Miami Beach, Fla.

"There will be no news-on-demand, but there will be movies and some advertising examples," he said.

Most advertisers are known to be behind in developing their applications, and the development of new technology for Orlando isn't falling into place on schedule. As a result, advertisers are starting to wonder how many homes will be equipped by April. The original plan was to start with 1,000 homes and build to 4,000.

Karl Kuechenmeister, head of ad sales of Time Warner Interactive, said the media have been overplaying the Orlando start-up date and the level of services.

He wouldn't say which applications were falling behind schedule. When asked whether the network will be up in April, he responded: "We hope to be."

"Is it any wonder that Viacom and AT&T have been playing it low key?" one participating agency executive asked.

Viacom and AT&T have said their similar interactive TV test will start midyear in Castro Valley, Calif., but have not attracted the huge amount of media attention given to Time Warner.

For the Orlando experiment, news-on-demand is being created by Time Inc.'s core magazines.

Between 11 and 14 advertisers have signed on to participate, paying $200,000 each. The list includes General Motors Corp., Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co., McDonald's Corp., Pizza Hut and Nissan Motor Corp. USA.

The two fast-food chains plan to feature on-screen menus and home delivery, while the auto marketers are planning an Auto Mall, where viewers can browse among the cars and order video brochures or a test drive from a local dealer.

Earlier this month, Tele-Communication Inc. had to backtrack on some of its superhighway plans. The company delayed the planned purchase of 1 million set-top converter boxes, part of the equipment needed to deliver movies-on-demand and other two-way services.

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