Intellicast, DTV Plus partner on datacasting

Digital weather updates to home PCs to be tested in N.C.
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DTV Plus, the datacasting venture run by Capitol Broadcasting, has found a new content partner to participate in its DTV-to-PC trials in the Raleigh, N.C., market. DTV Plus has teamed with WSI Corp.'s leading Internet weather site Intellicast.com to deliver digital weather updates to home PCs through the digital television spectrum.

The trial at Capitol station WRAL-DT will broadcast weather-related lifestyle features on travel, golf and sailing, as well as health indexes, such as UV levels, to PCs equipped with DTV receiver cards. DTV Plus has been testing such datacasting capability since April, working with technology partners Triveni Digital, Intel and Wavexpress. Currently, 200 homes are participating in the test. The company's long-term goal is to offer datacasting services to local broadcasters, using the satellite uplinking capability and satellite capacity of Capitol subsidiary Microspace Communications.

The regionalized weather content for DTV Plus is similar to the Intellicast content that WSI has developed for some 70 broadcast stations to use on their Web sites. Intellicast.com Director of Content Management Mark Miller calls DTV datacasting "a logical extension of the program." Billerica, Mass.-based WSI, he says, has also had preliminary discussions with datacasting firm Geocast about providing content.

Intellicast.com will also develop richer content for DTV Plus' robust DTV platform, similar to the broadband weather content it is currently developing for cable operators. "Datacasting is a really good medium," says Miller. "I could see delivering broadband content directly to the desktop using this platform."

Although some 300 stations use WSI's weather-graphics systems within their newscasts, WRAL-DT isn't one of them. Instead, WSI became acquainted with DTV Plus through its relationship with Microspace. WSI uses Microspace to transport some of its weather data, and WSI executives started talking to DTV Plus about datacasting's possibilities in the Microspace booth at NAB 2000.

What WRAL-DT has been offering since April is a mixture of HDTV, SDTV and enhanced data, according to DTV Plus Vice President and General Manager Sam Matheny. The station always offers an HDTV stream, whether it is CBS' prime time feed or its own local programming. That takes up 13 to 14.5 Mb/s of the 19.4 Mb/s DTV stream. Then there is a 2 Mb/s standard-definition channel, either an upconverted simulcast of CBS' non-HD programming or a local Doppler-radar loop. Finally, there's another 2 Mb/s of data, usually from Web page WRAL Online.

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