October 10, 2006

Empowered Thumb for Suckers

They have interactive television in the UK. Audiences send text messages (SMS) to support contestants, request music videos, express an opinion, or test their quiz smarts. This audience participation also allows a show's presenters to collect money from viewers directly, as opposed to relying solely on commercials.

While multiple time zones make it harder for this trend to fly in the US, more than 500,000 txts, at 49 cents each, were sent to "Big Brother" in a two day period last summer. NBC's "Deal or No Deal" earned enough via SMS to cover the more than $1 million prize money it offers. While voting on the internet is often free of charge, txting via phone means a participant need not leave the couch.

The strangest part of this is that many of those who text message TV shows don't even believe their messages are being counted or read by anybody. There's no verification or regulation, and some I spoke to say the videos they request never come on. It's all just a thumb charade, another illusion of the digital utopia.

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