The Times from Shreveport, Louisiana on February 24, 1980 · Page 125
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The Times from Shreveport, Louisiana · Page 125

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Shreveport, Louisiana
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 24, 1980
Page:
Page 125
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Viewers get to talk back to their television sets By LEE KREMS Gannett News Service Have you ever longed to talk back to your television set, to say "That program stinks." Or: "Please don't cancel that show?" The day soon may arrive when you can talk back and the program executives will have to listen. Two-way, interactive television exists in two American cities and it's spreading. For the past year, 200 families in Seattle, Wash., have had their TV sets wired to a "Vox Box," a little black box with buttons viewers can push to say what's on their minds. It also is connected by special telephone lines to a central cdmputer that records information every time someone turns on a set, changes a channel or pushes a button. To "talk back" to the set, a member of the family first pushes the button with his name on it, then one of the buttons labeled "excellent," "informative," "creditable," "funny," "boring," "unbelievable," "dumb" and "zap," which temporarily blacks out the screen and sound. Ratings per person Another button is labeled "person," which viewers can press along with one of the others to specify when a particular person on the screen is doing something. For example, if a viewer thinks Johnny Carson has just told a funny joke or an oil company president is lying to the public, he can press "person" and "funny" or "person" and "unbelievable," and the computer will record the information at that moment. The system was developed four years ago by Roger Percy, president of the R.D. Percy Co. of Seattle, with the help of the Stanford Research Institute. Its purpose: to provide companies with more specialized information about the products, they advertise on television than they receive from Nielson and Arbitron, the two major ratings companies. None of this costs viewers a cent. Advertisers, which have included Coca-Cola Co., DuPont, United Air Lines, Inc., pay him (he wouldn't say how much) to receive the computer records about a given commercial or program for a minimum of six months. Chief targets of the zap button are excessive violence, grisly news photos showing bleeding accident victims or dead bodies, an occasional politician and most often feminine hygiene products commercials. But he declined to name the brands. 'Excellent most common The button most often pressed is "excellent," he said. "Viewers want to thank the programmers for putting on programs or commercials they like.. .for example, the James Garner ads for Polaroid." Some companies have canceled poorly received ads, while others have stepped up campaigns with well-liked commercials. Among the TV networks, ABC has been a customer and NBC will be soon, he said; the information they receive could provide a new perspective on what programs will and won't be successful, and why. Asked whether his company posed a threat to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the powerful TV rating service, Percy laughed. In-depth sampling Not only is Nielsen huge and well-entrenched, he said it can do more in-depth sampling of viewers than he can. So far, Percy the son of Republican Sen. Charles Percy of Illinois says he hasn't had requests from political candidates. And he claims not to worry about the possibility of politicians using his service to learn people's instant responses to important, difficult issues: "I worry more about politicians not getting information than getting too much." The idea has been successful enough for the company to think about expansion. Four more cities Percy won't say which ones are under study. Another ambitious experiment in interactive television is QUBE, created by Warner Communications and tested in Columbus, Ohio, since December 1977. The system is expanding this year to Cincinnati and Houston, and Warner is bidding on franchises in parts of New York, according to Leo Murray, Warner vice president of public affairs. Unlike Vox Box, QUBE isn't an advertising tester but a cable TV programming service available to all subscribers. More than 30,000 people pay $10.95 a month to be wired into a central computer system. They get a little black box with buttons labeled "yes," "no" and numbers 1 to 5. At intervals in a program, an announcer or character may ask viewers to express an opinion or answer a multiple-choice question by pushing a button. The computer then tabulates the answers in 6 to 10 seconds and superimposes results on home screens. Most QUBE programs are produced in Columbus; they've included such shows as "Talent Search," which allowed viewers to rate local talent acts and decide whether an act should continue, and "Going Once, Going Twice," a continuing garage sale hosted by Flippo the Clown. Two children's shows "Pinwheel," for smaller children, and "Columbus Goes Bananaz," for teen-agers eventually became the nucleus of Nickelodeon, Warner's network for children's TV now received by more than one million cable subscribers across the country. When QUBE began, no one knew whether viewers really wanted to talk back to their TV sets or whether they had become conditioned to passive viewing. But subscribers signed up quickly and they were quick to press the "no" button when shows didn't live up to expectations, according to Murray. Arnie to" host rivals Legendary golfing figure Arnold Palmer plays host to many of his friendly rivals on the PGA Tour Saturday and Sunday, March 1 and 2. Palmer's own tournament, the (300,000 Bay Hill Classic, will be aired beginning at 4 p.m. March 1 and again at 2 p.m. March 2 on NBC. FEBRUARY SPECIAL RUG CLEANERS WILL CLEAN CARPET IN ANT ROOM IN TOUR HOME FOR ORLT... $H(fn95 SHAMPOO ONLT UPHOLSTERED CHAIRS . . . $10.00 SOFAS . . . $30.00 CALL T00AT 747-11 A5 FOR FAST SERVICE It I" I I til m K0A11NGS ' BATHTUBS Reglazed in Your Home Xifei DULL, HARD TO CLEAN TUBS MAUfc LIKt NtW SINKS BATHTUBS CERAMIC TILE NOW BEGINNING OUR SECOND YEAR OF BUSINESS See our listing in the yellow pages ARK-LA-TEX TUBS Porcelain Rofinishing PH. 221-5185 Antique Pocket Watches (RUNNING OR NOT) WE REPAIR AND APPRAISE ANTIQUE WATCHES Also Need Watch Chains, Fobs RICK'S RINGS & THINGS 418 MILAM ST., SHREVEPORT PH: 424-2465 iM w ffrtx- Chad Everett, Arthur Hill New series premieres Saturday Chad Everett and Arthur Hill will star in "Hagen," a new hour-long drama series that premieres Saturday, March 1 at 9 p.m. on CBS. Hagen, as played by Everett, is a big, brawny outdoorsman who lives in the backwoods of Idaho but who comes to the big city of San Francisco to find a friend who has mysteriously disappeared. There he meets top criminal lawyer, Carl Palmer played by Hill. In the series the lawyer and the former backwoods tracker team up to solve tough cases. " "Hagen" is a 20th Century Fox TV series. II1 Ymfc cf.y - Av sr The Times Sun., Feb. 24, 1980 I1C

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