The ITV commercial television network in the UK is planning to extend its use of iTV with the addition of interactive features to its long-running soap opera, Coronation Street.

“The time is right for us now to look for the next level of interactive television beyond votes and competitions,” says Jane Marshall, controller of interactive television services at ITV in the Creative Business supplement of the Financial Times. “Now that interactive television has proved itself a viable business, we want to enhance ITV viewers’ television experience by driving interactivity into new areas.”

Interactive features planned for the soap opera are reported to include additional sub-plots and background stories, out-takes, behind-the-scenes coverage and competitions. The enhancements are scheduled to launch in mid- 2005, initially on satellite, followed by cable.

“The aim is to raise the value of interactivity and encourage new audiences to try it,” adds Marshall. “The challenge isn’t about being more creative,” she concludes. “It’s about getting interactivity to be accepted as part of everyday life – as just another part of the television experience, and that means making sure it’s developed by the same people making the television programmes, and commissioned at the earliest stages of a programme’s development, not as an afterthought.”

Coronation Street has been running on ITV since 1960.