AgileTV Raises $22M

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Voice-activated remote controls will be in the hands of cable subscribers of at least two MSOs by year-end, according to executives at AgileTV Corp., which recently raised $22 million in capital.

Comcast Corp., which has been testing AgileTV's “Promptu” remotes and headend software with employees on its Philadelphia system, will begin a broader market trial there by the end of the second quarter, AgileTV senior vice president David Hanson said.

AgileTV expects at least two MSOs to commercially deploy Promptu remotes and headend software by the end of the year. Comcast and Insight Communications Co., which joined Agile's latest round of financing, are the top two candidates.

“AgileTV's voice-recognition technology offers the industry a cost-effective, easy-to-implement solution that will provide customers with increased value — and it's just plain cool technology,” Insight president Michael Willner said in a statement.

Insight is testing AgileTV's system in a laboratory in Lexington, Ky., Hanson said. Time Warner Cable is participating in Comcast's trial in Philadelphia, teaming up with Comcast on conducting consumer research.

Valence Capital Management led the $22 million in funding that AgileTV announced last week. Gary Lauder's Lauder Partners also invested, as did Insight and other private investors.

Valence Capital CEO James Caccavo and partner Roy Thiele-Sardina joined AgileTV's board of directors.

Hanson said he wasn't concerned that Comcast hasn't invested. “We didn't pitch them on the [financing] round,” he said. “When you're a vendor in the cable industry, it's nice to have distribution partners, but you don't want to be captured by anybody.”

AgileTV generated some buzz at the National Show in April, demonstrating remotes that let users quickly channel-surf by hitting a button and giving commands such as “find 24” or “scan sports.”

Promptu recognizes 100,000 phrases, and AgileTV said it delivers better than 90% voice recognition accuracy.

In addition to using AgileTV's voice-recognition technology to ease channel-surfing, Hanson said the company envisions using the applications to let subscribers access audio or video content stored on home media centers.

AgileTV has also talked to gaming companies and firms that develop walled-garden Internet content about using its voice-recognition software, Hanson said.

Hanson declined to discuss how much AgileTV is looking to charge distributors for its headend software and remote controls. Consumer pricing may also vary.

Some operators could offer it for free to high-end customers, while others may use it as an incentive to retain other subscribers, Hanson said.

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