Interactive television may finally flourish amid the long-promised convergence of communications technologies, says the former chief executive of AOL.

Barry Schuler writes on “What’s holding back interactive TV?” in a special feature entitled ME TV on

The co-founder of an interface design company which was acquired by online service provider AOL, Barry Schuler was appointed president of their Interactive Services group. He subsequently became chairman and chief executive of AOL, following the misguided merger with Time Warner in 2000 at the height of the dot com boom.

Barry Schuler observes that technologists began talking about the delivery of entertainment and information services to the living room over two decades ago and “The graveyard of technofailures is littered with fruitless attempts at interactive TV.”

However, he says “new forces in motion may finally transform TV forever”. He points out that unmentionable “C word” convergence is finally happening, as previously separate networks for telephone, cable television and the internet begin to merge. This, he says, “will set the stage for the biggest changes we have seen in TV yet”.

He concludes: “We are on the precipice of a nuclear battle for the hearts and minds of the very couch potatoes who, up until now, have not been very interested in anything that complicates the TV ‘zone out’ time.”