Let’s face it: After you’ve seen them once or twice, most music videos are pretty dull. At best, MTV works as a distraction, the default click when your favorite show goes to commercial. But sitting there watching extended blocks of music videos? That’s only for people seriously avoiding homework.
Still, music video’s short-attention-span appeal makes MTV the perfect partner for Intel’s Intercast technology, a hardware upgrade (costing about $100 to $150) that installs in your computer and brings cable TV to your PC screen, interweaving it with Web-style pages. With MTV’s Intercast Jam, introduced last month, the music network joins a growing number of channels — including CNN, NBC, and QVC — taking advantage of Intercast.
Simply put, the technology uses a special browser to ”broadcast” exclusive Web pages along with a network’s programs. For two hours daily on MTV and 24 hours on M2 — the network’s new all-music TV channel — Intercast Jam attempts to combat the eye-glazing boredom of extended video viewing by adding related pages to the on-screen videos. As MTV shows U2’s kitschy ”Discotheque” video, for example, Intercast sends along a page with the band’s summer PopMart tour dates and links to U2-related news. (At other times, when MTV is not broadcasting the pages, you can use Intercast just to watch the TV feed on your PC.)
Like the videos themselves, unfortunately, the actual content isn’t all that engaging. Much of it seems to be bland interactive games and silly surveys: ”Vote for your favorite brothers,” one page offers. Choices include Chemical Brothers, Blues Brothers, and Gallagher brothers (Oasis’ battling Liam and Noel were way ahead). Some videos — those of Smashing Pumpkins, Matthew Sweet, Dionne Farris, and Fiona Apple, to name a few — call up links to MTV Online’s top news stories, random this-day-in-music-history type info, or mini bios of the artists. Imagine reading footnotes during a movie. Now imagine reading footnotes during a dull movie.
For now, it’s the technology — not the content — that intrigues. Intercast’s coolest feature may still be the mouse click that shrinks the TV image, allowing you to watch The Real World on one corner of your computer screen at the same time you’re cranking out that late-night term paper and yakking about Jenny McCarthy in an America Online chat room. Leave it to MTV to come up with the latest, greatest procrastination device. B-