BT is planning to include interactive advertising around the on-demand programming it intends to offer for the broadband television service it will launch in the UK.

Andrew Burke, the chief executive of the BT Entertainment division is quoted by New Media Age as saying that he would be disappointed if their broadband television service did not significantly push forward the interactive television advertising market in the next 18 months.

He goes on to say that the ability to mix broadcast adverts with broadband interactivity should not be underestimated, and that he expects broadcasters and programme makers to take advantage of the always-on return channel to enhance their existing programming.

According to the report, the telecommunications company is seeking to recruit a commercial team to support the service, which is due to launch in the second half of 2006.

Possible interactive advertising formats could include click-to-call, enabling users to press a button on their remote control to be directly connected to an advertiser via the phone, rather than having to dial a number on screen.

The extent to which consumers will accept additional advertising around pay-per-view programming is another matter.

While wrapping adverts around on-demand material is technically relatively easy, presenting broadband as an additional interactive platform for terrestrial television is more challenging.

Broadcasters in the UK already face three incompatible platforms, dominated by satellite, which is already available in 7.5 million homes.

Cable television, available in 2.6 million homes, can already offer interactive and on-demand services, but the deployment of interactivity on cable by broadcasters and advertisers has so far been relatively limited.

Digital terrestrial television, in 5.8 million homes, does not currently provide a return channel, which BT will enable in its hybrid broadcast and broadband service.

However, to attract significant attention from broadcasters and advertising brands, the broadband proposition will need to reach a critical mass of several million subscribers.