Energis goes head to head with Open over interactive TV

BrightBlue hopes to light up the digital services market via Sky

Energis launched an interactive TV portal on Monday which it hopes will seal its entry into the digital services market.

The portal -- dubbed brightBlue -- will offer a virtual high street, giving users access to travel sites, financial services, gambling, gaming and shopping. With the launch of the consumer marketing campaign not due until the autumn, no partners have yet been announced.

BrightBlue will be available on Sky's digital platform. Sky is by far the most dominant player in the UK market and currently has around five million subscribers. Energis is hopeful that its service will be extended to cable and terrestial broadcasting as well as 3G mobile platforms.

The foot-dabbling in the interactive TV market will see Energis -- a telco that has recently been in the news challenging BT over its broadband strategy -- going head to head with Sky's established interactive Open platform.

Head of marketing at Energis Interactive Justin Dewhirst is convinced brightBlue has a winning formula. "At the moment other portals are limited in the range of services brand owners can use to get to consumers. Brand owners are unsurprisingly frustrated that they cannot fully exploit the potential of iDTV," he said. Through consultation with interactive TV consultancy SmashedAtom, brightBlue has achieved simpler navigation for consumers, Dewhirst said.

Future plans include increased interactivity, allowing viewers to participate in shows and set camera angles for programmes.

The service is a first for Energis Interactive, a joint venture between Energis and software developer Graham Technology. Despite some gloomy predictions for interactive TV and the fact that some digital channels are already going to the wall, Dewhirst is convinced that iDTV is a rapidly growing technology.

According to research firm Jupiter MMXI, interactive digital TV (iDTV) is set to replace the PC as a means of accessing the Internet by 2005. Currently the most popular application of iDTV is gambling but email usage is also growing, with one million of Sky's five million digital TV customers sending email via TV.

However, Continental Research has found that only a tiny fraction of iDTV viewers are aware of the interactive content available to them and this content is not yet a factor in switching consumers to digital. The government is keen to see interactive digital TV promoted in order to fulfil two targets -- one to switch off the analogue signal by 2010 and the other to make universal Internet access available to all citizens.

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