Wink Communications Inc. said last week that it has won the
official backing of Microsoft Corp., which will invest $30 million for a 10 percent stake
in the company.
The two companies said the agreement would help to promote
interactive content and electronic commerce based on ATVEF (Advanced Television
Enhancement Forum) standards.
Microsoft will use Wink's "Response Network
Service" on all of its video-platform devices, Wink CEO Maggie Wilderotter said.
Starting in the second quarter of next year, Microsoft
expects to incorporate Wink's interactive-broadcast services in its "WebTV
Plus" Internet-over-television devices, as well as digital-cable set-top boxes and
enhanced television sets.
Wink will provide ATVEF-capable technology to broadcasters
and cable-television networks, and to advertisers that want to take advantage of the
company's interactive-advertising capabilities.
A broad cross-section of technology companies and content
providers founded the ATVEF last year in the belief that a common set of specifications
for interactive television would help to give the category a head start.
Microsoft and Wink began discussions on a possible
strategic alliance about six months ago, Wilderotter said.
"This really endorses Wink's capabilities,"
she added. "Microsoft will definitely help us to get entree to a number of customers
that we would not have been able to get on our own -- not just in the United States, but
In addition to its U.S. services, Wink is in front of about
200,000 homes in Japan, Wilderotter said.
Microsoft is the latest -- and perhaps the highest-profiled
-- of a string of backers for Wink. Last December, Paul Allen invested $10 million. A
month later, DirecTV Inc. agreed to introduce Wink's service on new direct-broadcast
satellite equipment later this year.
On the MSO side, Time Warner Cable, AT&T Broadband
& Internet Services, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Allen-controlled
Charter Communications have licensed Wink's technology.
General Instrument Corp., Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and
several cable networks also use Wink technology.
Earlier this spring, Wink signed two top
broadcast-television networks -- ABC and CBS -- to bring interactive-television
enhancements to viewers with compatible equipment. NBC was already on board.
Wink's service -- which offers enhanced commercials
and e-commerce opportunities -- is available free-of-charge to consumers, and it does not
require Internet access. The technology can work with analog or digital video.