March 5, 1997 1:00 PM PST

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A new study says that the PC-TV convergence will split the Internet into two distinct components with divergent audiences.

In-Stat, a market research firm in Arizona, says that a TV-centric Internet will arise from the use of devices such as WebTV that will exist alongside today's computer-centric content.

Initially, since access to the Internet was only available through a home computer, the content has been primarily text-based material that "PC-savvy" users seek out. Accessing the Internet through televisions with an easy-to-use interface will change expectations of what Internet content should be, the study says.

Since television is already full of multimedia content such as audio and full-motion video, the study says users will drive the creation of a hybrid TV-centric Internet.

"Streaming multimedia will get 'picked off' the cable or direct broadcast satellite feed and inserted into windows on your TV screen, making selected Web pages come alive,"the report said. "People who have their very first experience with the Internet using this hybrid system will find the plain, old, vanilla, 'free' Internet to be slow and boring by comparison with what they can get on their big-screen TV," it added.

To enable this experience, hardware will converge. Cable boxes and dial-up Internet access boxes (such as WebTV) will combine with a graphics subsystem to mix Internet content with video and audio content from a cable service provider. Using the cable system as a delivery mechanism for high-bandwidth content would sidestep the problem current Internet users face: waiting for big files to download over slow dial-up lines.

Without a significant demand for unique content, though, In-Stat's predicted Internet split may still lie far in the future. A recent report from another market research firm, Jupiter Communications, predicts that it will take until the year 2002 for TV-based access devices to have a significant piece of online market share. They are predicting about 12.7 million households, or 22 percent of the consumer online market, will be using Net TVs.


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