Sportscope eyes 2-way TV

Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas' two Super Bowl fumbles in Atlanta will dog him for the rest of his career.And the Dallas Cowboy who recovered one of them - safety James Washington - and ran it back for a touchdown...

Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas’ two Super Bowl fumbles in Atlanta will dog him for the rest of his career.

And the Dallas Cowboy who recovered one of them – safety James Washington – and ran it back for a touchdown will become a National Football League footnote and a sports trivia question for fans to argue over in a few years.

When they do, they might turn to Sportscope, a first of its kind cable tv service that is watching the development of interactivity as two-way television becomes more common in households across the country.

Sportscope, on systems in places as far apart as Chatham, Ont., Kamloops, b.c. and St. John’s, Nfld., provides continuously updated scores, sports news, standings, odds and statistics on a dedicated cable channel.

It is in a text-only format, although it can show still motion graphics, station identification and dissolves. Background music for the service is ’50s and ’60s rock ‘n’ roll.

Bil Trainor, president of Markham, Ont.-based Sportscope, says when interactive tv is considered routine, fans or the just curious could use Sportscope’s database to settle their differences, seek information or manage their fantasy leagues.

Sportscope already has interactivity of an elementary sort, running trivia questions viewers can answer by phone.

But for now, Trainor says, Sportscope will concentrate on adding new subscribers in Canada, preparing for its launch in the u.s. later this quarter and building its advertiser support.

Trainor says Sportscope, already on 20 systems and usually placed on extended basic cable service, is running advertising with Molson Breweries ads on cable systems in Kingston and Thunder Bay, both in Ontario.

As for more advertising, Trainor says he is talking to advertisers in the automotive, athletic shoe, soft drink and pizza industries, as well as another brewer.

Sportscope is delivered free by satellite to cable operators having a minimum number of subscribers. It is already available in 790,000 Canadian households.

Trainor calls Sportscope ‘a very nice companion service to sports programming.’

But also he says the service attracts the channel hoppers: viewers switch to Sportscope from the regular sports programming they are watching whenever there is a commercial break but are nevertheless exposed to Sportscope’s ads – never more than 15 seconds long.

Trainor says Sportscope gathers its information from news sources around the continent, thus allowing up-to-the-minute reporting.

For example, he says if the Toronto Maple Leafs get a goal against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who scored and who assisted would appear on the Sportscope screen in well under two minutes.

Trainor says Sportscope, which already carries a live Las Vegas odds line, will soon provide lottery results almost as soon as the numbers are drawn.

He says this means lottery players will not have to wait up for the late news to get the winning numbers and newscasts will lose one of their viewer hooks.