OpenTV Inc. last week signed a middleware and content deal with Headend in the Sky that gives it a hunting license to pitch its middleware and content service to 275 HITS affiliates.
The ITV provider plans to offer HITS affiliates on-demand news, sports information, weather and gaming applications under its broadcast model. OpenTV will pay HITS an access fee for its bandwidth, then offer its suite of services to MSOs on a per-subscriber basis.
HITS also has a deal with Liberate Technologies Inc., which is testing its interactive middleware and content on Telemedia cable systems. Under the HITS-Liberate deal, HITS cable systems will pay Liberate a per-subscriber fee for the service.
The Telemedia test involves news, weather sports, arcade games and ticker information. Liberate expects to complete integration work with Motorola, HITS and TV Guide this summer.
OpenTV CEO James Ackerman expects his HITS service will be available later this year, but declined to offer a firm launch date. OpenTV will have to pass technical tests for Motorola Inc.'s 2000 series set-top platform and HITS, as well as complete integration work with TV Guide.
Operators would be able to provide subscribers a level of interactivity through downloads of flash content, which would provide smaller systems with a weapon against their direct-broadcast satellite competitors, Ackerman said.
"[Affiliates] know there's an imminent [satellite] merger," said HITS vice president of operations Paul Bambei. "They are very concerned about it. We're a partner that can fend off that competition."
Two-million-plus EchoStar Communications Corp. satellite receivers sport OpenTV software and a handful of satellite interactive applications. EchoStar, the No. 2 DBS carrier, is in the process of acquiring top-ranked DirecTV Inc.