Allen Answers ITV Queries

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LOS ANGELES -Charter Communications Inc. chairman Paul Allen toured the Western Show exhibit floor on Wednesday, checking out the latest in interactive-television technology.


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caught up with Allen, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder, outside the Scientific-Atlanta Inc. booth for a brief interview about ITV.

"I've been talking about [ITV] for a while, encouraging the manufacturers to upgrade where the platforms are and add capabilities," Allen said. "So it's heartening for me to come here and see the way some of these things have evolved. And I continue to encourage the people making the set-tops to invent the technology. Of course, I have some of my own companies trying to invent things on the software side."

What's holding back the mass deployment of ITV services, Allen was asked.

"Certainly there are integration issues," he replied. "But you're talking about boxes with higher functions, and so there are higher price points. The boxes have to be delivered in volume, and all of the software applications have to be developed. So it's a set of things, but it's going to happen."

Asked if he was interested in acquiring more cable systems, Allen said: "We'll always take a look at opportunities there. I think the way things have shaken out, things have kind of coalesced along the lines of a fewer number of larger companies, and so now you have to think about whether there will be more of those kinds of things in the future.

"And I don't see anything like that imminent today. But we talk to everybody," Allen said.

And what if there's a chance to acquire cable systems from AT&T Corp.? "I really don't know," Allen responded.

When asked if he was negotiating with AT&T Broadband to possibly acquire systems, Allen declined to comment. There has been speculation about big MSOs looking to buy at least some systems from the AT&T unit, , spurred by a published report in
Broadcasting & Cable
's show daily.

Allen was joined Wednesday by several executives from Charter and Digeo, a new interactive-TV-applications company he has formed.

Digeo, which now has about 200 employees, has been quietly building its ITV platform. Allen said the first Digeo rollout will occur next year, beginning on Charter systems.

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