Channel 4 is to introduce the online equivalent of red button interactive television advertising. The British broadcaster is planning to include interactive adverts in programming downloaded through its 4oD service.

Viewers of downloaded programmes will see a call to action displayed on screen, prompting them to click on the button, pausing the video and taking them to a branded campaign web site.

Sarah Rose, head of video on demand at Channel 4 told MediaWeek: “We’ve signed up a lot of blue-chip advertisers who now want to see interactivity, so we’re shifting our road map. It’s a new format for advertisers and agencies to deal with, but we’re getting there.”

The 4oD service now also carries programming from National Geographic. Further deals are expected to follow. “This is the start of 4oD becoming a true internet TV platform that doesn’t only show our own programmes,” said Sarah Rose.

The 4oD service uses similar technology to the Sky Anytime service from BSkyB and the BBC iPlayer, based on the Kontiki download manager from VeriSign. Each currently requires a separate application to be downloaded.

While the BSkyB and 4oD services launched without incident, the high profile of the BBC iPlayer has attracted far greater attention, some of it critical.

Channel 4 launched with a rental model, but has moved to a mixed economy including advertising. Interactive television advertising as pioneered on satellite provides a promising model for broadband video services. Channel 4 is the first major broadband video service to introduce such an approach.