Two British digital TV platforms announced on Monday they planned to launch real-time interactive TV betting services using software developed by U.S. firm Interactive Systems Worldwide Inc. (ISWI).

Telewest Plc, Britain’s second-largest cable group, and ITV Digital, the digital terrestrial TV service owned by Granada and Carlton, both heralded the beginning of a new age for sofa-bound gamblers.

Telewest will start a pilot service over the next few months with ISWI license-holder Global Interactive Gambling (GIG), a joint venture between a U.S. firm and a company backed by Germany’s Kirch Media. A full launch is due to follow next year.

ITV Digital expected to start rolling out its service with GIG to users of its TV Internet service in early 2002.

Interactive Systems Worldwide has developed the real-time Judi Slot SportXction software that will power it, and the U.S. software firm will take 25 percent of the gross profits for the use of its technology, as well as a share of the wagers.

Shares in ISWI had gained 18 cents, or more than four percent to $4.55 in midday New York trade. The stock has quadrupled in value since May this year.


SportXction allows bets to be continually placed at key points in television programming — in particular in sporting events where, for example a player is about to take a penalty shot in soccer or serve in tennis.

A spokesman for BSkyB Plc, which takes bets through its Sky Digital satellite service for wagers made before the start of a particular event, noted that “real-time” betting would depend on the speed of the modem connection.

But the entire industry is counting on TV gambling to help claw back some of the billions of pounds spent on subsidizing and selling digital TV to British consumers, which has put the country at the forefront of the technology.

“Many broadcasters now realize that their future success will be based upon incremental revenues generated from new, compelling and distinctive services,” GIG Chief Executive Cees Zwaard said in a statement.

Both Telewest and ITV Digital hope to capture a slice of the interactive digital TV betting market, which ABN AMRO expects will be worth $2.1 billion by 2004.

GIG is a joint venture created last year by Delaware-based Multisports Games Development and Prisma iVentures, a company backed by Kirch Media — which announced plans last week to merge with German TV broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 and is a division of German media giant Kirch Group.