It's 2000 and America's love affair with television has heated up. No more surfing through a myriad of stations in search of compelling content; it's an era of intimacy where content comes to consumers at the time and date that they want it, based on entertainment and information preferences they've communicated to their Internet- television service providers. Consumers can choose to receive, say, their news in the morning, sports scores and stock market results--relative to personal portfolios--after work and an entertainment roster in the evening that lists the shows or Net games they're most likely to enjoy.

And while this personalized approach to media represents huge opportunities for financial services companies, among others, to develop a mass consumer following and to market and sell product to more people than ever before, the key here is that the Internet- television service provider is responsible for creating the context in which Americans will view the world as it relates to them. These providers, in effect, determine what information and entertainment gets in and what doesn'toa frightfully powerful position, some say, but arguably necessary considering the escalating amount of information and entertainment pouring into TV sets. And if banks find this role of "context provider" daunting, it's even more so with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates defining it. Gates is up to his eyeballs in the infrastructure and content development of this medium.

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