Interactive TV is Open for business

Rupert Murdoch launched Open today and, using detailed research, proved that shopping on a TV is less stressful than shopping on Oxford Street. Justin Pearse reports...

BSkyB today launched its first interactive television service, Open, on its digital satellite television network.

The service -- a joint venture between BSkyB, BT, HSBC and Matsushita -- will be available to over one million UK households and will provide home shopping, banking and email services through the television set.

The service, available free to all subscribers of BSkyB's SkyDigital satellite service, has been previewing since August. According to Open over 50,000 people used HSBC's service for product quotes and to register for television banking during the preview period. HSBC's full transactional banking service will go live in early 2000, pre-empting its planned Internet banking service. A spokeswoman for HSBC said the company expected the two services to exist side by side. "They appeal to different groups of people," she said, "Television banking is a passive experience where you can switch on, check your account and be off to Sainsbury."

The Abbey National, which has similar plans to HSBC, agreed that customers would make use of both platforms. "As people become more confident with the technology the television may become the dominant player, after all you're logged on permanently with the TV."

From today services available with Open include shopping with Woolworths, WHSmith, Dominos Pizza, Carphone Warehouse, Dixons, Manchester United, Kitbag Sports, music and video from Yalplay, and Somerfield. Financial services will be provided by HSBC, and First Call will offer tickets for theatres and sporting events. Weather reports are provided by the Met Office, and there are cinema listings, film and music reviews as well as a range of games.

Between now and Christmas Open promises to introduce more partners and services, including Argos, Iceland, Next, travel services from Going Places and Tropical Places, banking from Abbey National and the Woolwich, and stocks and shares information from E*Trade.

To coincide with the launch a report from the University of Hertfordshire, commissioned by Open, found that shoppers saved up to two-thirds of their normal shopping time, had reduced emotional stress and saved hundreds of heartbeats compared to a single shopping trip on Oxford Street. The authors of the study also claimed the results suggest shopping with Open produced reduced anxiety levels compared to shopping on Oxford Street.

NTL, which had planned to launch its interactive television services in September, has postponed the launch for the near future. "We won't say when we're going to launch it," said a spokesman, "At the moment we are just extending our Glasgow trial."

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