Logo Rob Buckley – Freelance Journalist and Editor



Websites are just the beginning for the internet: coming soon is interactive programming. Rob Buckley talks to the man behind Hat Trick's first “semi-interactive” foray on the web

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”We learned that if you just put up the schedule and some pretty pictures from the filming, it won't attract any users,“ he divulges. ”If you allow loyal viewers to interact with the show and play the same games they watch on TV, they'll come back.“

But Zwillenberg's hackles begin to rise at the concept of two-way interaction: when the viewer can feed back to the creators to influence the programme itself. At first, he assumes interactivity in broadband internet programming to mean the ability to choose camera angles. ”For sports, that would be quite important. That would probably ruin the whole thing for a drama. I don't think it's a really relevant question.“ Something, no doubt, that would surprise Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose new film, The 6th Day, is being shot from different characters' points of views for its DVD release.

Or is interactivity chatting to the stars? ”They'll get a chance to speak to Angus and Paul. But, how could we let people chat with Paul every day? He's got to sleep. It's completely irrelevant. “Perhaps it's being able to influence the outcome of the show. ”The show's taped then aired on Friday. There's no way you could have that.“

Nor does the dawning idea of a viewer democracy appeal. ”Why would they want to change the rounds? They do like it. It's the most popular show on BBC2. What are you going to do? Take out 'the odd one out' round because a minority on the website doesn't like it but the majority of viewers does? I don't understand the relevance. No comment.“

Despite being a net-centric (if not particularly viewer-friendly) company, KPE still understands the television business isn't run by machines - hence an impending move to Soho. ”We're a media entertainment company so it's crucial to us to be in the thick of things. It's still a people business.“ All the wonders of modern technology available to the firm have been set to one side because television is about ”greeting, wining, dining and dealing.“

But while Zwillenberg is embracing the old as well as the new, he offers warnings to those who won't go the other way. ”The vast majority of production companies don't understand and haven't come to grips with the effects the broadband revolution will have. As we saw in America, it was people who got out there first that won the prizes.

“TV is essentially a creative business and different creative types have different ways of working. Some will continue to work independently, but you'll see a new class of production company that understands.” He forsees a shift in the balance of power. “The great creative people are going to learn how interactivity works. Those who establish themselves will win the kudos.”

KPE's contract with Hat Trick means it won't be working with anyone else in the near future. But if Zwillenberg is right, producers will have to ally themselves with companies like his to avoid being left behind in the broadband rush coming soon.

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