ITV Wasn't a Complete Afterthought

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For the first time in years, interactive television generated a little conversation at the Western Show.

With News Corp.'s impending purchase of direct-broadcast satellite giant DirecTV Inc. all but sealed, ITV began creeping back toward legitimacy within the cable ranks.

Vidion Systems teamed with Cable Television Laboratories Inc. and Time Warner Cable to showcase OpenCable-enabled ITV applications on the show's exhibit floor.

Time Warner also said it has contracted with Vidiom to develop and offer ITV applications on its digital platform.

Senior MSO executives said interactivity would be one of several features — along with HDTV, video-on-demand and digital video recorders, plus data and voice services — that MSOs will use to compete against DBS and especially against ITV-adherent News after it absorbs DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics Corp.

"We have ITV," Charter Communications Inc. executive vice president and chief operating officer Maggie Bellville said during a Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing-sponsored session last Tuesday, alluding to the Digeo ITV service Charter offers to 1 million of its subscribers.

The new Digeo-Moxi box, with HDTV, a DVR and ITV, is a product "that is just going to blow people away," Bellville said.

Cablevision Systems Corp. president of cable and communications Tom Rutledge pointed out that in addition to gaming applications, Cablevision's iO: Interactive Optimum digital subscribers can choose from various camera angles for sporting events from (Cablevision-owned) Madison Square Garden Network, or call up several traffic cameras to check road conditions before commuting to work.

Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts waxed enthusiastic about the OpenCable Applications Platform demonstration on the show floor. The demo included an OCAP programming guide that would work across all cable systems.

"You could buy any box and the guide will work with every cable company," he said. "It is a common language everyone can develop to."

Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt picked up on that theme.

"OCAP is very significant because of the standard [application program interfaces] that people can write software to in the interim," he said.

Time Warner already is testing Buzztime, an interactive gaming service.

On the floor, Vidiom teamed with Scientific-Atlanta Inc. — one of the two top cable set-top suppliers — and Time Warner Cable to showcase OCAP 1.0 applications with digital navigation and other applications on S-A's 3250 HD set-top.

"Time Warner Cable believes in OCAP and the benefits that it will bring to our subscribers and the cable industry," said Mike Hayashi, Time Warner Cable senior vice president of advanced engineering and subscriber technology.

Vidiom said it is under contract with Time Warner to provide engineering services, technical documentation, deployment support, application design and development tools for OCAP applications across a variety of set-tops in 2004.

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