Interactive Channel Goes for Guides


Interactive Channel, with two broadly worded patents under
its arm, plans to leap into the hotly contentious fray of interactive-TV guides at the
Western Show this week.

The move is part of an overall strategic change afoot at
IC, said its president, Tom Oliver, during a briefing last week.

Oliver described the new guide as being
"gridless," saying that it offers an alternative to the "restrictive,
spreadsheet approach" of current offerings.

Already, Insight Communications Co. plans to introduce the
guide, called "SourceGuide," to its digital-TV customers in Rockford, Ill., and
Columbus, Ohio, next year, as part of its IC launch.

"It's principally server-driven, with data kept
at a headend database," Oliver said of the guide, noting that it takes
"only" 128 kilobytes of set-top memory.

"Even the magical, fantastic computer boxes will be
cramped for memory," he predicted. "There will assuredly be lots of terrific
applications coming from the content suppliers, but if you try putting them all on the
set-top box, there will be instant constipation."

Consumers who use SourceGuide will be able to navigate by
channel, genre, time, or category, and they will be able to create personalized menus of
favorite programming, such as creating "all-sports" or "all-movie"

Parental-lockout options will also be a part of the guide,
so that programming can be blocked by service, time, rating, or title, Oliver said. And
the guide incorporates pay-per-view and browsing functions.

Oliver said IC will "courageously venture" into
the guide wars between Gemstar International Group Ltd.'s StarSight and Prevue
Networks Inc., because of the patents owned by the provider.

"We don't intend to be a patent terrorist -- our
business model isn't to sue people," Oliver said.

Instead, he added, the model is "to create a darn good
suite of services," with intellectual property that is "defensible,
differentiated and distributed."

Overall, Oliver said, IC's game plan is to take
advantage of the digital platform that it is rolling out, and to get out its
"virtual-modem" software, which he described as "middleware."

IC will also debut "LocalSource" this week,
described by company officials as neighborhood-specific local content designed for MSOs
deploying digital set-top boxes.

Wendy Borow, vice president of strategic marketing for IC,
said LocalSource will blend applications like white- and yellow-pages access, dining,
entertainment, electronic commerce, shopping and advertising.