Cox Plans to Add ICTV in Large City


ICTV Inc. expects to announce today (Sept. 25) that it has signed a letter of intent through which Cox Communications Inc. will offer its digital platform in a "large," yet undisclosed, city.

Cox agreed to deploy ICTV's headend-based, "thin-client" platform to provide Web browsing, electronic mail, electronic commerce and other interactive-television applications over existing digital set-top boxes.

Some operational and technical issues must be ironed out before Cox decides which system will use ICTV, Cox senior vice president of strategy and development Dallas Clement said.

"We still have to come to terms within Cox as to what system is operationally ready for it, what middleware runs on it and what guide does it support for digital-video service," Clement said. "Then we'll have to go back to ICTV and ask if they've integrated to that set of specifications."

Clement said those decisions will be made this year, as Cox prepares to deploy ICTV sometime in 2001.

ICTV senior vice president of marketing and business development Michael Collette said the launch is probably six to nine months away.

"We'll hear a decision on which market Cox has selected pre-Western Show, but the agreement is strong and firm," Collette said. "They're going to give us a major metro launch."

In 1998, Cox tested ICTV's earlier, analog product in Santa Barbara, Calif., but both companies agreed at that time that the product didn't fit Cox's needs, Clement said.

"We're very enthusiastic about trying out [ICTV's digital product] under real-world circumstances and seeing how they do," Clement said.

Clement said Cox is still talking with WorldGate Communications Inc. and Liberate Technologies, among other interactive-TV vendors.

"We don't know that only one is the best," he added. Some may work best on Scientific-Atlanta Inc. equipment; others may be more effective on a Motorola Broadband Communications Sector platform.

"The point is, nobody has provided a great solution for the thin-client boxes that are currently out there," Clement added. "We think ICTV has something that's attractive and can provide that solution."

Collette said he expects ICTV to announce a "nice flight" of distribution agreements in the next six to eight weeks.

ICTV has analog deployments with St. Joseph Cablevision in Missouri and a former Bresnan Communications system in Bay City, Mich., now owned by Charter Communications Inc. Collette said Charter intends to honor the agreement, but some details surrounding it are being revisited.

"There's a large Internet economy waiting to be released into the television platform, and we think we'll provide the solution for that," Collette said.