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Fox's new basic cable TV network, fX, is taking a decidedly non-technical approach to "interactive" programming.

The channel, launched June 1 in 18 million households, is running 7 hours of live original programming that uses interactivity-in its most basic form-to forge a connection with its viewers.

"It's not interactivity the way most people are using the word these days. It's really more about connecting with our viewers," said Guy Sousa, senior VP-national advertising sales. "This is not transactional TV. It's about living, breathing people interacting with other people."

To make that connection, fX hosts will interact with viewers via remote trucks that will spend a week at a time in communities throughout the country. Other "interactive" elements include viewer phone calls and faxes, celebrity and non-celebrity drop-in guests and man-on-the-street camera excursions.

fX will routinely break the "fourth wall," taking viewers behind the scenes to experience the production of live TV programming.

"We're talking about connection with the viewer in a way that hasn't been the norm since the days of Jack Benny," Mr. Sousa said.

More advanced interactive technologies will be integrated into the network's live programming as they become feasible, said Rich Ross, VP-program enterprises.

For example, fX has been working with Fox sister company Delphi Internet Services to conduct focus group research of programming concepts via the online service.

Mr. Ross said Delphi also will be integrated into fX's programming, as will other technologies being tested.

Similarly, Mr. Sousa said fX already is talking with some advertisers, including telecommunications companies, about using their services to produce interactive programming elements, such as 800-numbers.

"We want to do something that serves the consumer. You will see something involving a major telecommunications company," he said.

"We're looking at every technology, including video signals sent through the telephone," Mr. Ross said. "But there's high-end, future R&D and then there's `We gotta get it on the air' R&D. We're focusing on what we can get on the air right now."

The hub of the channel will be a Manhattan apartment that will serve as home base for the on-air hosts, as well as a studio for live programming.

The live segments offer good opportunities for advertisers, Mr. Sousa said, adding that some products may be integrated into the programming and even the sets.

"We don't like to use the term product placement. We want to create natural tie-ins," Mr. Sousa said. "But we are creating a Manhattan apartment, with a kitchen, a bathroom, bedrooms and a living room. Let's say that within that apartment there will be all kinds of electronics equipment. Well, somebody is going to have to put all that equipment in there. The possibilities are limitless in terms of how advertisers can work with our set design."

fX also may add transactional elements to its programming, using 800-numbers to sell a limited number of products associated with some of its live programming, such as "Personal fX: The Collectibles Show," an hourlong program airing weekdays at noon.

"The live programming and the interactive elements are interesting," said Chris Harder, assistant media director at Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. "It seems like there is the potential for good tie-ins for some clients. That's what's neat about it."

However, Ms. Harder said fX needs to be careful to "strike a good balance between interesting programming and satisfying their sponsors' needs," lest it lose its credibility as a programming service.

Other live programs include: "Breakfast Time," from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; "Sound fX," weekdays from 11 p.m. to midnight; "Under Scrutiny With Jane Wallace," 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and "Back Chat," 12:30 a.m.

"Sound fX," a demonstration and information-oriented music program, may occasionally sell products.

The balance of fX's 19 hours of programming will be filled by popular, contemporary rerun series, such as "Fantasy Island," "Batman," "Mission: Impossible" and "Dynasty," as well as repeats of Fox's "In Living Color."

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