Want a different camera angle for the game? Zap. Pick you’re own
DALLAS (AP) _ You’re at home, watching a basketball game and want to see a close-up shot of the action under the basket. Click, it’s there.
Want to see that last dunk again? Zap, you’ve got it.
This space-age way of watching sporting events isn’t as farfetched as it seems. In fact, ``individualized television″ may be available to cable television viewers in Texas by the end of the year for around $9.95 a month, says William Samuels, head of ACTV Inc., which developed the concept.
ACTV will be offered as a premium channel on cable systems for viewers who pay to upgrade from analog set-top boxes to digital ones.
Currently, almost all of Texas’ cable subscribers have analog boxes. Companies were expected to begin offering the switch to digital _ which offers better picture and sound _ over the next several years.
Michael E. Shonstrom, an analyst with Neidiger/Tucker/Bruner Inc. of Denver, said cable providers likely will use ACTV as a way of promoting digital service.
``When the distributor wants to upgrade you to digital and you say why, they’ll say because you can have better picture, better sound AND this channel,″ he said.
ACTV has teamed with Fox Sports Net to use the concept for games on Fox’s seven regional sports networks. It will be launched first in Texas on Fox Sports Southwest, which carries the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Stars and the Big 12 Conference.
Fox SW also reaches Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and parts of New Mexico.
Regular Fox SW viewers will get the game the way they always have: a variety of angles switched around by a producer, with replays of most big events and statistics occasionally flashed on the screen.
ACTV viewers, however, will have access to all Fox SW cameras (around eight for a typical basketball game), replays whenever they want, statistics just a click away, plus a ``star cam″ focused on a specific aspect of the game.
That extra eye already has been used to follow Shaquille O’Neal around the court, target the blocks of an All-Pro center in football, isolate a goaltender in hockey and watch pitchers warming up in the bullpen.
When viewers select the star cam, they will hear an announcer trained specifically on that angle.
The focus of the star cam changes every five to seven minutes, but a graphic in the corner of the screen lets viewers know where it’s aimed.
Viewers guide their way through ACTV’s options by punching four colored buttons on a remote control that will come with their new digital cable box.
``The viewer can move around and experience the richness of the game the way they want to see it,″ said Samuels, ACTV’s chairman and chief executive. ``You become the director of your own game.″
New York-based ACTV says it has spent $40 million on this concept, which it has tested for 18 months in California’s Ventura County. The publicly traded company has been working on individualized TV for two years.
If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of ACTV or this radical way of watching TV, it is because the company has intentionally kept a low profile.
``It’s a stealth concept; no one has picked up on it yet,″ Shonstrom said.
ACTV calls its concept individualized instead of interactive because it doesn’t want to be lumped with the other companies who have tried and failed.
Samuels said ACTV is unique because it is software driven. All that’s needed to run it is some information stored inside the digital boxes.
``We’ve spent a lot of money and a lot of thinking in order to get it practical,″ Samuels said. ``The research we did was not on technology, but on what features would add value to a fan’s view of the game.″
ACTV _ which likely will run 10 to 12 hours a day at first _ won’t be limited to sports. Samuels said there are all sorts of education and entertainment applications, game shows being the most obvious ``because they are participatory by nature.″
Samuels is convinced ACTV will not only work, but become a hit.
``The only historical breakthrough in television I would say is similar to what we do is instant replay,″ he said. ``We believe it will be a major, simple elegant breakthrough with immense social impact.″