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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 06:48 GMT 07:48 UK

Business: The Company File

Interactive shopping hits UK

Opinion is divided about the market for interactive TV shopping

Britain's first fully interactive television shopping channel goes live on Tuesday to more than 1.5 million homes.

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw compares stress levels between real and virtual shoppers
Open, which is available to subscribers of Sky Digital, offers viewers the chance to buy goods from a string of High Street retailers without leaving the comfort of their own armchair.

Unlike other shopping channels, such as the cable and satellite service QVC, Open allows viewers to make purchases on screen without even recourse to a telephone.

High Street chains such as Dixons, Argos, Next, Woolworths, WH Smith, Somerfield, Iceland, HSBC and Abbey National have been quick to spot the channel's potential.

Free service

Customers will also be able to order pizzas, mobile phones and football merchandise, play computer games and send and receive e-mail using buttons on their digital remote control.

Media Correspondent Torin Douglas: "Some experts believe growth will be slow"
A preview of Open has been running in about a million homes. The service, which is backed by BT, is free to subscribers of Sky Digital.

It also offers news from PA News and listings from Yellow Pages.

Sky Digital is pioneering interactive broadcasting. Last month it became the first broadcaster to allow viewers to choose angles and action replays during live football matches.

Market researchers, The Henley Centre, published a report on Tuesday claiming consumers would take to interactive TV more easily than the Internet.

'Less stress'

They found: "People associate the television set with quality time while Internet usage is far more strongly associated with work time. TV is a pleasure and the PC is a chore."

Dr Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, said interactive shopping was considerably less stressful than traipsing up and down the High Street.

He said it saved up to two-thirds of the time it took to shop, reduced emotional stress and lowered heartbeats.

But critics of the service say it is little better than mail order and will not appeal to those who want to try on clothes, check food for freshness or test out electrical gadgets.

Open's rivals say their services will offer much greater choice, although they have yet to get off the ground.

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