Sports giant ESPN says it will roll out new interactive TV applications by next summer, using standardized software platforms that have already been adopted by cable operators and consumer electronics manufacturers.
ESPN plans to deploy three interactive TV (iTV) applications: two based on the EBIF (Enhanced Binary Interchange Format) software specification that is already supported by most digital set-top boxes, and one using the new Tru2way software platform that is being rolled out in the latest digital set-tops as well as new digital television sets from manufacturers such as Samsung and Panasonic.
“ESPN has always been a leader when it comes to innovation and technology,” said Sean Bratches, ESPN executive vice president, sales and marketing, in a statement. “And we know that our fans tend to be early adopters of technology. Now with iTV technology more widely available and of more importance to our affiliates and our advertisers, we want to enhance the fan experience at home. We believe these applications will be hugely popular and further advance interactive television in the industry.”
ESPN says it will use the interactive applications to bring elements of the Internet to the living-room TV, allowing viewers to create customized data feeds and participate in on-screen, dynamic voting and polling using their existing digital set-top and remote control. Each of the three products will also include specific advertising overlays.
The applications, the names of which are still being finalized, include:
- ESPN My Vote (EBIF) – An interactive voting and polling feature that will be available during each live airing of SportsCenter, College Football Live, College Football telecasts, Major League Baseball telecasts and Baseball Tonight, with the potential to add additional programming before or after launch.
- ESPN In Game Extra (EBIF) – Will allow viewers the opportunity to obtain additional stats and information - player tracking, scores, standings, schedules - during live events.
- My Bottom Line (Tru2way) – Available in shows where ESPN currently displays a bottom line, this will allow fans to customize the scrolling information that appears on their screens. For example, a St. Louis fan could program the bottom line to include only St. Louis scores, no matter where they live. The application will also give additional access to stats, standings, research plus national polls, and can be programmed to provide information about fantasy players.
ESPN says it will incorporate the two EBIF applications, ESPN My Vote and ESPN In Game Extra into more than 3,000 events and shows per calendar year.