The former director of new media at the BBC says interactive television is not standing still and the overall trend is towards a symbiotic relationship between television and interactivity.

David Docherty, chief executive of YooMedia writes about interactive television in a guest column in Ariel, the BBC in-house weekly paper.

He cites Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft chief executive who was quoted to be “really excited by iTV”, but added “admittedly I’ve been excited about it for eight years, but the market might be ready for it now” (informitv, 6 October 2004).

YooMedia is certainly betting on that excitement. The public company describes itself as one of the fastest growing interactive entertainment companies in the UK. It is a claim that has some foundation given its recent acquisitions, which have led to the creation of an interactive business second in size only to BSkyB, covering everything from public service government information to chat, dating and gambling.

David Docherty, a former director of new media at the BBC, writes that “Interactivity should have a symbiotic, rather than parasitic relationship with linear television,” adding that “it works best when its part of the creative mix, rather than a bolt on”.

The original idea for BBC Choice, subsequently re-launched as BBC Three, was as a side channel to BBC One and BBC Two, offering an extension to conventional programming. He admits it was too early in the technology cycle, and the idea was scrapped in favour of a linear channel. Ironically, the hit comedy Little Britain, which transferred from BBC Three, via BBC Two to BBC One, was itself recently the subject of a series of interactive extras.

He goes on to say that interactivity will work even better if it takes advantage of the different mobile and wireless devices that are emerging as companions and competitors to interactive television. “The underlying trend for the relationship between interactive devices and television is not convergence, but what you might call permanence,” he writes.

He observes that “Interactive TV is not standing still and IPTV (internet protocol television) will produce rich media specially optimised for television that will rival PC-based content for richness and depth.”

Finally he says that as mobile devices allow for richer interactive TV experiences, programme-makers should think in an integrated way about the creative possibilities for maintaining a relationship with the audience, adding that for the BBC “the public value could be huge”.