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The TV POWWW format, produced and distributed by Florida syndicator Marvin Kempner, debuted in 1978 on Los Angeles station KABC-TV as part of A.M. Los Angeles, and by the start of the next decade was seen on 79 local television stations (including national superstation WGN as part of Bozo's Circus) in the United States, as well as several foreign broadcasters. While most stations had dropped TV POWWW by the mid-1980s, stations in Australia and Italy were still using it as late as 1990.
Stations were originally supplied with games for the Fairchild Channel F console, but following Fairchild's withdrawal from the home video game market, Intellivision games were used. Kempner later unsuccessfully attempted to interest both Nintendo and Sega in a TV POWWW revival.
While the underlying technology was standardized across participating stations, the format of TV POWWW's presentation varied from market to market. Many presented TV POWWW as a series of segments that ran during the commercial breaks of television programming (a la Dialing for Dollars), while some (such as KTTV in Los Angeles) presented TV POWWW as a standalone program.
In the video game being featured, the at-home player would give directions over the phone, while watching the game on their home screen. When the viewer determined that the weapon was aiming at the target, they said "Pow!", after which that weapon would activate.
Accounts vary as to what kind of controller technology was involved. Some sources state that the gaming consoles sent to the stations were modified for voice activation. However, a 2008 WPIX station retrospective claimed that for the station's version, an employee in the control room manually hit the fire button when the caller indicated a shot.
One of the pitfalls of the gameplay was that, due to broadcasting technicalities, there was significant lag in the transmission of a television signal. The player would experience this lag when playing at home, which likely made playing the game somewhat more difficult. (For similar reasons, such a game would be impossible in digital television without the use of a second video chat feed for the player, due to the time it takes to process and compress the video stream; most stations also mandate a seven-second delay to prevent obscenities from reaching the air.)
- Shooting Gallery
- Tic Tac Toe
- Moving Target (a game similar to Breakout)
- NFL Football
- Major League Baseball
- NBA Basketball
- Space Battle
- Sharp Shot
TV POWWW variants
One notable version of TV POWWW was used by New York based television station WPIX, called TV-PIX (a play on the station's call letters). Hosted by station staff announcer Ralph Lowenstein, it was aired during the traditional weekday afternoon slot of children's TV as an interlude. Participants would be called at home to play a videogame that appeared on their screen.
Participants interacted with the game by saying the word "PIX" to perform game-related actions. Prizes included T-shirts and $10 U.S. Savings Bonds. They could double their prize or win a bonus prize (such as advance tickets to see upcoming films) by answering a trivia question. For a chance at playing, children could send a postcard with their name, address, and phone number to TV PIX.
David Elliot of Staten Island, NY was the all-time TV PIX champion, winning the "Keyop" award (named after the character from Battle of the Planets). WPIX's program lasted until 1982; for many New York viewers, TV PIX was their first glimpse of the Intellivision home game system.
- Erickson, Charles (June 9, 2002). "When the Future of TV Was a Youngster Yelling 'Pow!'". New York Times. pp. 27, sect. 2. Retrieved 2009-11-05.
- Intellivision Lives website: Newsletter, March 2002
- Tsiokos, Costa (June 15, 2008), Population Statistic: "TV PIXXX: Remote Gaming, 80's Style", retrieved 2009-11-05
- The Golden Shot (similar British program with a play-at-home element)