The German public television channel ZDF will later this month become the first broadcaster in Europe to offer Intercast, a service that broadcasts supplementary information from the Internet on unused television bandwidth for reception on a PC.
Intel, which developed the technology for Intercast, announced the upcoming availability of Intercast on ZDF. Five US broadcasters already offer Intercast in the US, Intel said at IFA, the international broadcasters exhibition that opened here on Saturday.
Intercast gives PC users the opportunity to receive HTML pages simultaneously with the ZDF broadcast. During a sports program, for example, the Internet pages might include information about the team, the players, as well as provide a link to a Web page where sports fans could reserve tickets to future games.
Intercast content is provided by the broadcasters, who search the Internet for HTML pages that supplement their programs and can insert them into their video signal, said Kenneth Stober, international marketing manager for Intel's broadcast products group.
"The trend in the US is that broadcasters are discovering that people are coming home from work and playing with their PC instead of turning on their TVs, as had always been the case in the past," Stober says. "This is a way to get the viewers' eyes back to the TV broadcasts through their PCs."
It also gives users access to the Internet without paying the monthly fees charged by Internet service providers, and at a higher transmission rate - 20Kbit/s - of television broadcast rather than a telephone line, Stober says.
To receive Intercast, users need a Pentium-equipped PC, a PC/TV tuner card and Windows 95, costing a total of about 200 marks (US$111). The PC also must be connected to the cable network, with an antenna or a set-top box for satellite reception. Intel will port Intercast to the Macintosh operating system if demand warranted, Stober said.
PC/TV tuner cards in Europe are selling faster than in the US, indicating high interest in Intercast in Europe, Stober says. Like other public broadcasters, ZDF is struggling to attract young viewers who are more interested in computers than in television, says Michael Pochert, Intercast director at ZDF.
"The only way to get in touch with these people is to put interesting context for them into the computer world," Pochert says.