ICTV’s in NTL Content Trial

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ICTV Inc. has an agreement with content aggregator YooMedia to supply HeadendWare technology for a broadband ITV test with U.K. cable MSO NTL Inc.

“NTL is looking for a next-generation platform and they’ve chosen us for the trial,” ICTV CEO Mike McGrail said last week from the International Broadcasting Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

NTL is in a pitched battle for subscribers with direct-to-home satellite provider British Sky Broadcasting plc, and has launched what McGrail called “narrowband” applications to its 1.4 million digital subscribers.

“NTL is probably the most-experienced cable company in the world with interactive services,” McGrail said. “They are competing with satellite and the fact they are looking at moving further forward with interactive services means they think ITV is here to stay.”

NTL has deployed interactive services using Pace Micro Technology plc set-tops on a Liberate Technologies Inc. middleware platform. YooMedia has supplied the content, including games.

The ICTV-YooMedia trial, scheduled for next year in an unspecified number of homes, will increase the level and sophistication of interactivity, said Jonathan Symonds, ICTV’s vice president of marketing and business development.

“We bring to the table the ability to add animation with audio and Web-based video coupled with audio,” Symonds said. “We can also tie the Web-services back end together in order to create highly dynamic and very strong pertinent services.”

“What you’ll see are games that rely heavily on animation and that use multiplayer as a core element. The individual applications that were once picture and text will become much more dynamic.”

For ICTV, which has conducted a few trials in the U.S., it’s a big win.

“We got to where we are, after an extensive feasibility study by NTL,” Symonds said. The trial will include content from the British Broadcasting Corp. and MTV: Music Television, McGrail said.

Symonds said NTL is using various business models to make ITV work, including subscription and pay-per-play. “They have quite a sophisticated business model,” he said, which should be of interest to U.S. operators since NTL is doing battle with Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB.

“The U.S. is readying to do the same battle,” he said, alluding to Murdoch’s U.S. direct-broadcast satellite service, DirecTV Inc.

Symonds said ICTV continues with its trial in La Paz, La., with Time Warner Cable, as well as its rollout with Grande Communications in Texas. “We’re talking with Time Warner on additional opportunities,” he said.

ICTV said it’s in lab trials or the proposal stage with four of the top five U.S. cable MSOs.

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