Wired-TV Buzz

By Jonathan Takiff,
Playboy, October 1999

Although high definition television is a hot topic, there are more-immediate advances headed to the small screen. Worldgate Communications is rolling out a low-cost service that enables cable subscribers to access Internet sites and e-mail through their TVs-at speeds twice as fast as typical 56kbps modem. Superfast satellite delivery of websites to television is also happening. Echostar has married its receiver technology to Microsoft's WebTV, and DirecTV has a partnership with AOL. Already available on several cable systems and on DirecTV later this year is Wink, a free service that allows broadcasters such as E, ESPN, CNN and Court TV to add interactivity to their programming. Here is how it works: While you're watching Larry King Live, for instance, a Wink icon appears on-screen, signaling the availability of extra information on a subject or guest. To access it, you press a button on the remote and the details appear on your television screen. And finally, there's Intertainer, a video bank that provides access to more than 500 hours of movies, television shows and music videos. This digital service is currently being tested in three U.S. markets. Because Intertainer has no pay-per-view schedule, $3.95 buys any new release-any time. Classic films and other video fare priced between 25 cents and $2.