'Wheel' spins a site on the World Wide Web

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Game show plays on Downtown Digital's TV expertise

The grandiose concept of interactive TV may have gone by the wayside, but Downtown Digital is working to make what's on TV more interactive.

The AT&T Corp. unit last week launched a Web version of Columbia TriStar Television's "Wheel of Fortune" on the Sony Online site.

The interactive shop also is creating a Web version of Columbia's "Jeopardy!" as well as a current events game for ElectionLine, a collaborative political Web site formed by ABC, The Washington Post and National Journal.

A TV HERITAGE

"Game design plays to our heritage of interactive TV expertise," said Downtown Digital President Vinnie Grosso.

He started working in AT&T's internal TV division in the early 1980s and directed the company's interactive TV trials in Chicago and California before founding Downtown Digital in New York's SoHo district earlier this year.

Now the 25-person interactive developer works for a variety of clients, including Bantam Doubleday Dell and Sadleir Publishing.

The Web versions of both "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" will offer a number of opportunities for advertisers. Initially, advertisers will buy banners and links. Down the road, they can sponsor games.

Visitors to "Wheel of Fortune" on the Web can play individually at any time of day; they compete for recognition in the daily "Top Ten Players" list. Eventually, users could win prizes donated by corporate sponsors.

DEALS FOR TV ADVERTISERS

Ad rates aren't yet determined, although Sony Entertainment is offering special Web packages to its TV advertisers, including Ciba-Geigy's Maalox and the Money Store.

Sony Entertainment is promoting its Web game shows on TV as well as online.

"We want to take advantage of our franchise vehicles," said Russell Myerson, VP-operations at Sony's Game Show Network, who's also a college friend of Mr. Grosso's. "There are tremendous opportunities for generating advertising revenue via game shows on the Web."

Copyright May 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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