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Entranet's TAXI! is the world's first digital TV programme to combine segments of linear entertainment, video-on-demand and interactive shopping.
Entranet, a London-based online commerce developer, is showcasing a fully interactive TV programme. The show, TAXI!, is touted to be the first digital TV programme in the world to combine segments of linear entertainment, video-on-demand and interactive shopping.
E-commerce partners in the interactive show include financial services company Goldfish, Daimler Chrysler Smartcar, and Warner Bros Cinema.
"This style of programming is a natural progression with the advent of technologies like TiVo and VoD, where people can take control of their viewing," says Paul Hastings, head of production at Entranet. "Advertising will become marginalized and more targeted in the future.
TAXI! is an example of the way consumers can take control - choose how they want to enjoy a programme, and also choose commerce propositions along the way." The format of the show is an interactive city guide. The viewer is taken on taxi ride with a Spitting Image-style cabbie, whose mood the viewer can choose, selecting from happy, grumpy or rude dispositions.
"This is an example of the way interactivity is built into the show from the beginning, not retrofitted," says Hastings.
The viewer then gets to choose which area of the city - in this example London - that they want to explore, selecting from shopping, nightlife, arts, sights, or playing a competition about the city.
For example, selecting the nightlife option takes the viewer into a Holiday-style featurette, showcasing London's theatreland, cinemas, bars and clubs. Incorporated into this are options for further mini-documentaries, about Andrew Lloyd-Webber for instance, and also commerce propositions and special offers, for example a 2-for-1 ticket deal at Warner Bros Cinema.
"We have made the commerce less intrusive by offering sales for things when they occur naturally in the show," says Hastings. An iTV kiosk can be called up at the end of the nightlife section, in which viewers can buy tickets for West End musicals and other attractions using their remote control.
Product placement is also used - when a BMW appears in shot, viewers can follow the call-to-action, click on their remote and enter a prize draw for the car.
TAXI! is not currently being carried by any of the digital TV platforms, although Entranet is in currently in discussion with Sky and ntl. The programme has been transmitted through a Sky digital set-top box for demonstration purposes, but the current problem is the amount of bandwidth the show requires for its different options and programme strands. Through Sky Digital, the show requires 8-10 different channels.
TAXI! is currently available on DVD and will soon be offered through a broadband Web site. The show is really being used as a calling card for Entranet's interactive programming admits Hastings. "The model of broadcasting is changing so quickly, we have to keep pace and anticipate the future. TAXI! is the culmination of two years worth of learning," he says.
TAXI! is underpinned by OpenTV middleware, and requires around 11Mb per stream for broadcast quality delivery.