Gemstar Guides Gain Twice in Oregon

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Independent Oregon operator Willamette Broadband has replaced Microsoft Corp.’s interactive program guide with Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.’s new I-Guide.

Willamette, which counts about 19,000 subscribers, also dropped Tribune Media’s Zap2It passive, scrolling channel guide and rolled out Gemstar’s TV Guide Channel.

The IPG switch came after Microsoft decided to stop supporting its standalone IPG, allowing operators to deploy the IPG only as part of its broader Microsoft TV Foundation Edition interactive platform, officials said.

“We had such a great relationship. It was just costing the two of us a lot of extra labor and man hours to do work-arounds to keep this thing running,” said Willamette president Wayne Vestal, who said his firm and Microsoft agreed on a “nice, easy exit.”

Willamette rolled out the Microsoft IPG in 2003 — the first U.S. operator to try the product. Comcast agreed later that year to deploy the IPG and Microsoft’s TV Foundation platform on its Seattle-area systems.

Microsoft TV director of marketing Ed Graczyk said the decision to drop the guide from Willamette was mutual.

“We’ve enjoyed a positive relationship with Willamette Broadband over the past couple of years, but Microsoft TV no longer offers a standalone IPG product. We’ve focused our resources on our two signature digital TV platforms — Foundation Edition and IPTV Edition,” Gracyzk wrote in an e-mail message.

Gemstar will only pick up about 19,000 additional IPG customers with Willamette’s rollout of the I-Guide, which Comcast is also rolling out this year. But the Gemstar-Willamette deal was a public-relations victory of sorts for Gemstar, since it was able to announce last week that the first U.S. cable system to test Microsoft IPG’s had dropped it.

I-Guide was developed by GuideWorks, a joint venture formed by Comcast and Gemstar last year to develop IPGs.

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