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Interactive Network is tinkering with its game plan in preparation for a long-awaited national rollout in September.

The play-along system today breaks a TV spot in Chicago and San Francisco introducing a new name for the service, Live Action Games, and a huge price cut.

For Interactive Network, the changes could be what makes or breaks the company. IN has struggled in its early markets, amassing only 5,000 subscribers since its 1991 launch.

The 60-second spot emphasizes the fun of playing along with TV. It's the first creative work from Kobs & Draft, Chicago, since the agency took over the estimated $8 million account in March from Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco, and others.

"What you will see [in the spot] is the transition of TV from being black & white to color and now interactive, and Interactive Network being the revolutionary group to do that," said Teresa Crummett, VP-marketing.

A direct mail piece that dropped earlier this month, also via Kobs, touts IN's ability to make the subscriber "part of the action."

In Chicago and San Francisco, Interactive Network is offering Live Action Games for $9.95 a month plus a $30 set-up fee and a $25 refundable deposit for the control unit, making the total about $175 per year. That's far below what IN used to charge: $199 to purchase hardware plus $15 a month.

The changes follow the arrival of Peter Sealey, former Coca-Cola Co. senior VP-director of global marketing, as Interactive Network president last January.

The new strategy was tested for a few months with TCI Cablevision of Michiana in South Bend, Ind., IN's newest market. In addition to Chicago and San Francisco, IN is also available in Sacramento, Calif.

The national rollout will start in mid-September in several markets, a spokeswoman said, adding that IN will no longer try to sell its units. The hope is that the combination of the lower price point and the emphasis on fun will help boost subscriber levels.

But it's unclear just how well the strategy has worked in South Bend. IN wouldn't divulge numbers, and neither TCI's local marketing manager, Leslie White, nor the regional VP-marketing, Richard Coats, knew how well it was selling.

TCI is a major investor in Interactive Network, along with NBC, Gannett New Media Group and A.C. Nielsen Co.

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