Originally created 07/04/96

NBC provides Olympics live online



NEW YORK - NBC will supplement some of its Olympic broadcasts next month with data sent through the airwaves to home computers, giving a glimpse of the benefits that will come from integrating computers and television.

The system - demonstrated last week - will allow viewers to call up information such as athletes' biographies, historical statistics and results of sporting events while watching the broadcasts on their computers.

NBC calls the new data delivery method "intercast," an amalgam of interactive or Internet and broadcast. Much of the information NBC will deliver during the Olympics will also appear on the network's World Wide Web site.

"Intercast allows NBC to merge our broadcast and Internet content," said Peg Murphy, a manager of cable and business development at the network.

NBC will supplement 70 of its 171 hours from the Olympics with intercasting. The network will also provide intercast information during broadcasts of its police drama Homicide this fall.

A home computer needs a special device, priced from $100 to $200, to be able to collect the data. New computers, starting with one Compaq Computer Corp. puts on sale next week, will eventually have the device as a standard feature. AST Research Inc. and Sony Electronics are expected to include it in their new PCs.

Though NBC declined to make a specific estimate, very few people are expected to have computers that can view an intercast during the Olympics. Thousands more are likely to watch the network's Web site on a computer and the regular broadcast on a TV set. Millions more will just watch the games on television.

Nonetheless, the intercast project is representative of the kind of extra information that will be common with TV programs as hybrids of PCs and televisions are created and, ultimately, when digital broadcasting emerges.

An intercast brings the TV signal into the PC, either through the air or cable, and wraps the supplemental information around it. A person who wants to view the TV picture on the whole computer screen can do so with the click of a mouse button.

The data is sent on a portion of the broadcast signal called the vertical blanking interval. That is the black bar seen when a TV picture starts to roll vertically. Broadcasters already use that to send closed captions for the hearing-impaired, and some networks or cable channels send stocks, weather or other information to select audiences.

NBC has worked with Intel Corp., maker of microprocessors that run most PCs, on the special circuitry that permits an intercast.

About a dozen other companies, including makers of personal computers, software companies, CNN Interactive, America Online and others belong to an Intercast Industry Group. All are working on projects that use the technology.