News

Diva Loses CEO, Opts for Hanselaar

9/10/2000 8:00 PM Eastern

Diva Systems Corp. CEO David Zucker has resigned to take the top job at a new company formed by Walter Digital Inc., which recently won some patents involving electronic-gaming systems.

Henk Hanselaar will replace Zucker as CEO of the five-year-old video-on-demand company, Diva announced last week. Hanselaar, a former CEO at both Fuba Communications Systems GmbH and TV/Com International, was most recently a general partner at venture capital firm Hamilton Management Partners.

Stamford, Conn.-based Walker Digital bills itself as an "invention and commercialization company" whose patent portfolio includes the pricing system behind priceline.com.

A search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database shows that Walker Digital won two patents involving electronic gaming systems on Sept. 5.

One was for an electronic-gaming system that would give gamblers who use slot machines free access to premium Web sites, pay-per-view services and 900 telephone services, as long as they keep playing.

"A need exists for an electronic gaming system that allows players to access premium-entertainment services.as an incentive for continued play," Walker Digital wrote in the patent filing.

Walker Digital spokesman Chris Dorval said the company has no current plans to commercialize the gaming patent, and would not say if Zucker will be involved in a possible gaming venture.

The company also won a patent for a "system and method for generating and executing insurance policies for gambling losses."

Walker Digital spokesman Chris Dorval would not say if Zucker would be involved in the company's gaming venture. But look for Zucker, a former managing director of ESPN International, to maintain his ties to the cable industry.

Zucker's new post will draw upon his knowledge of the entertainment industry and the "new economy," Dorval said. "It will probably be in the broader entertainment field," he added.

Cable players have increased their activity in the electronic-gaming area recently. In striking last month's deal to acquire 50 percent of Game Show Network, Liberty Digital CEO Lee Masters said the company was interested in exploring electronic gaming.

In addition to gearing Diva up for an initial public offering that's still waiting in the wings, Zucker helped the company cut VOD distribution deals with Charter Communications Inc., the former MediaOne Group Inc. and British MSO NTL Inc.

Hanselaar joins Diva at a key point for the company and its VOD competitors. Cable operators are finally beginning to roll out VOD, and vendors are grappling for distribution deals.

"I have great confidence that [Hanselaar] will continue to expand and solidify Diva's role as the industry's must successful VOD provider as the company aggressively rolls out VOD with its cable customers," Zucker said in a prepared statement.

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