Home television viewers will be able to match wits with NFL quarterbacks and win prizes by calling plays in an interactive football game popular in taverns and hotels.
Interactive Network Inc. of Mountain View, National Football League Properties Inc. in New York, and NTN Communications Inc. of Carlsbad, Calif., jointly announced Tuesday an agreement to make NTN's "QB1" game available to home TV viewers.David Lockton, president and chief executive officer of Interactive Network, said in New York that the game will cost $400 to $500 for the control unit plus a subscription fee of about $15 a month for access to a family of programs.
The system will be available in Northern California in 1990 and will begin to be rolled out nationwide in 1991.
He predicted that 400,000 to 500,000 homes would have the system in 1991 and that the market would grow substantially in future seasons.
More than 1 million people have played QB1 since its introduction four years ago, said NTN president Patrick J. Downs, and about 50,000 played it during this year's Super Bowl.
The game is played on a cordless, wireless terminal with simulcasted data of the action. All the information required to play along is received by the FM receiver in the control unit, much like a stereo simulcast.
Players watching the game on TV or listening on radio make judgments on whether the next play will be a pass or a run and get points for their decisions. They can gain extra points by predicting whether the play is to the left, right or middle, or whether the pass is long or short.
A lockout signal is sent instantaneously to all players to prevent entering calls after the ball is snapped, then the correct answer is sent out by an NFL referee who sits at a computer console punching in the types of plays.
As the players go along, their scores are continually updated after each play. At the end of the game, players can compare their scores to other players by plugging a phone to the back of the unit for a few seconds. The score is transmitted to Interactive Network's computer, ranked and rebroadcast over the FM.
Within five minutes, even if millions of players are playing, Interactive Network will be able to tell who won the game, Lockton said.
Since the game is considered one of skill, rather than luck, NTN and the game's sponsors are legally able to offer prizes, including trips to winners. The sports bars charge varying amounts to play.
For home players, Interactive Network is considering a variety of awards to recognize winners.
The game uses Interactive's patented technology, which was developed by Lockton in the early 1980s and licensed to NTN for the sports bar game. Interactive holds the patent on the only practical working technology that permits home competition and scoring without engaging the telephone line throughout the contest.
"Interactive Network's system not only adds a new dimension to television viewership, but it provides the television industry an opportunity to offer interactive advertising, couponing, sweepstakes and other promotional activities in conjunction with commercials run in this interactive environment," said Tom Rogers, head of business development for NBC and president of NBC Cable.
Interactive Network has been testing a baseball game licensed with Major League Baseball Properties Inc., and has deals in the works with the NHL and NBA.