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Sunday, Sep 24, 2023

Web TV



Staff Reporter

By the time next fall’s television season rolls around, some DirecTv customers could be watching “Seinfeld” on their personal computers.

Electronics manufacturers and software designers are working to merge the computer and the television into a single appliance. Most of the devices now available or on the drawing boards make television sets work more like computers with components that, for example, allow people to cruise the Internet on their TVs.

But El Segundo-based DirecTv Inc., a unit of Hughes Electronics Corp., is taking the opposite approach: It’s trying to make PCs into televisions.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, DirecTv and Microsoft Corp. unveiled their most recent plans for satellite delivery of television programming as well as enhanced Internet offerings through the personal computer.

If the system is ready by its target date this fall, consumers will be able to take the same 18-inch DirecTv dish they use to get digital satellite transmissions for their televisions and attach it to their PCs.

A software upgrade package from Microsoft will equip the computer to show the programming exactly like a television would.

Except the system will be able to do much more than a television, explains Ed Huguez, vice president of the new media and interactive department at DirecTv.

“It will be an interactive experience,” Huguez said. “It makes the personal computer a home entertainment center.”

Eventually, Huguez envisions a system in which a person watching a given show on the computer will be able to call up a menu of added content so, for example, a person could watch a cooking show on the computer, call up a written recipe for the item being cooked on the show and print it out.

The system will also allow for high-speed transmission of Internet content although users will not get a direct connection to the World Wide Web. DirecTv will provide a menu of Web sites from which users can select a package of their favorites. The sites will be downloaded nightly into a user’s hard drive so he or she can cruise them at leisure.

Analysts see DirecTv’s attempts to create an interactive system as its answer to a threat posed by the cable industry. Many cable providers are upgrading their networks to provide two-way, interactive communication.

Eventually, cable modems may become commercially available that allow Internet access through super-fast fiber optic cables although the daunting investment required to create this system has caused many cable companies to back down from their original projections.

Whether there is a market for all this interactive entertainment remains to be seen.

“The jury is still out as far as how much interactivity consumers really want or need,” said Michael Harris, partner in charge of the entertainment industry practice in the El Segundo office of Andersen Consulting LLP.

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