Sky seeks way to boost iTV voting performance



Sky is making moves to address technical hurdles that prevent many viewers from casting votes via interactive TV on shows like Fame Academy and I'm a Celebrity.

The satellite giant is soon to open talks with all broadcasters running iTV services on Sky Digital, including the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, in a bid to address the issue.

ITV is believed to be one of the most concerned as it prepares to add iTV voting to Pop Idol this Saturday. It's ratcheting up its interactive output after agreeing terms with Sky in February to launch iTV services on the platform.

The broadcaster is committed to deriving whatever revenues it can from iTV. Industry sources say early experiences, especially with I'm a Celebrity, resulted in significant numbers of votes cast via the red button failing to register, potentially meaning lost revenues from cuts of set-top box dial-ups.

The aim of the discussions is to find a way to change the process by which Sky supports iTV voting. Currently Sky must authenticate every viewer response, creating a bottleneck at times of high demand and stopping some votes registering.

Sky is looking at how it could support non-authenticated calls from the modems in its set-top boxes, freeing the system to handle many more red button votes.

A spokesman said that the consultation was a response to the growth of the platform itself. He denied that it was an admission that Sky's infrastructure was in any way lacking. 'It's an admission that Sky is always ready to pioneer new services and ways for people to access them,' he said.

An ITV spokeswoman said the company welcomed the Sky consultation, as did the BBC's head of iTV programmes Scott Gronmark.

Endemol's head of interactive media Chris Short warned, 'iTV voting won't go away. While we've relied on a gentleman's agreement in most cases to avoid putting too much strain on the infrastructure, as the number of TV companies showing interactive programmes increases, it'll become a problem.'