"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 3 February 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Prevue to a Kill


[I TV]

Push media is not a hoax. We know

because we've seen a preview. In

fact, we've been testing the

prototype for more than ten

years now, under the guise of

the most visited site on cable,

The Prevue Channel.


[News Page]

Cable television may have been

the first failed interactive TV

but before NY1, QVC,

CNN, and other progenitors of

the modern infosite, Prevue was a

trailer for the future. Before

the web, frisky surfers had

found in Prevue the ur-homepage

in the form of a deadeningly

slow-scrolling hotlist (minus

the links). Prevue Networks,

owned and operated by the

TCI-controlled United Video

Satellite Group Inc., has been

turning the aesthetics of ticker

tape on their head since 1981,

when they beat out Scripps and

Newhouse in the early battle to

become the Yahoo for the coaxial

crowd. Today, more than 42

million Americans sputter drowsy

obscenities at the Prevue

Channel every single day, and

80 million, in their respective

tongues, do so worldwide.



Prevue's founder, Roy Bliss,

helped lead the company through

years upon years of all the

fuckups generally associated

with interactive anything. A

true foot soldier of the digital

revolution, Bliss has enjoyed

the degradations of new media

since as far back as 1978, when

he found himself forced

to write a check for a

transponder he held no license

for. While that debacle was

quickly debugged, some others -

bucks blown on the Trakker

teletext technology, Time

Warner's Full Service Network,

US West's Omaha video dialtone

shenanigan, an ill-fated WebTV

precursor from Wink

Communications, even a failed

merger with TV Guide On Screen -

were doomed to haunt years worth

of R&D expense sheets.



Still, Bliss and his Prevue

retinue would not be deterred by

fiasco: They controlled the

vertical, while we controlled

the horizontal. Prevue may have

suffered through more ITV

experiments than any other

property ever conceived, but

along the way they learned life

lessons that, if codified and

distributed, could ease the

growing pains of a whole generation

of '90s media peddlers. Prevue

established itself as the

ultimate passive on-screen

guide, a Yoda of the screen,

teaching the value of patience,

action through effortlessness,

and the facing of one's own

worst fears.


There were years when the channel

was told their advertising

potential was nil - "Why would

I want to buy a half-screen ad

that competes with your listings?"

Today, LaToya commingles with

Hugh Grant, legally and

fruitfully. The interactive

trials showed that people

wanted, nay, needed control:

"You control the scroll" is

Prevue's ITV mantra. However,

the absence of this feature has

failed to cause much of an

uproar - nobody has bombed their

server or staged a virtual

protest. Branding opportunities,

the desire for Murdoch's V-chip

control, and, yes, ITV

technology motivated a doomed

liaison with TV Guide On Screen,

but the real takeaway was what

the research revealed after the

deal fell through: Users were

hard-pressed to give a shit what

the service was called.

Tellingly, so were the employees

of TV Guide On Screen, who left

in droves for Prevue after the

scrapped merger.



But when your nebulously branded,

dubiously functional,

resource-consuming project is

still an unqualified success, it

may be a clue that the lump in

your trousers is a golden egg.

Today's pushheads worship the

sacred trinity -

headlines, stock quotes and sports

scores - which constitute the A,

B, and C of push media's

three-letter alphabet; but the

story of Prevue teaches nothing

if not that the envelope of

obviousness can also be pushed.



Perhaps Microsoft will be the one

to edge into Prevue's turf

online, though if they or any

other web player really drew

wisdom from the master, we'd

have already expected them to be

pushing, at the very least, web

listings. In the meantime,

Prevue is fumbling towards the

broadband future as persistently

as ever. Prevue.com recently

went live, and true to form,

it's a site almost intuitively

engineered to crash more

browsers than all other

JavaScript blunders on the web

combined. But, by this time, the

cliche of "not a bug, it's a

feature" rings truer than ever.

If it weren't broken, we

wouldn't think them serious. If

it wasn't quixotic, it wouldn't

be Prevue. And if it weren't

Prevue, we wouldn't be


courtesy of Duke of URL


The Duke of URL