Portal Aims at TV-Overload Victims

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Cable and direct-broadcast satellite subscribers suffering from “programming overload” might seek relief beginning today (June 6) at a Web portal that helps viewers sort through television offerings to find content they really want to watch.

The MeeVee portal (www. meevee.com) will provide programming information customizable by ZIP code. Viewers can search for content by title, keyword, cast member names or “show characteristics.”

Michael Raneri, chief marketing officer of Burlingame, Calif.’s MeeVee Inc., said the programming lineups are gleaned from data feeds in the marketplace and don’t rely on information provided by cable systems or direct-broadcast satellite providers.

The company was founded in 2000 as MyDTV but became MeeVee this past March.

One of its products, TV Agent, enabled an on-screen interactive guide application that could, for instance, generate a screen prompt to notify a viewer when his or her favorite baseball player was coming up to bat during a game televised on another channel.

Time Warner Cable tested the product in its Desert Cities, Calif., cluster (in and around Palm Springs) in 2002. During the beta test, churn was reduced in MyDTV-enabled homes and pay-per-view purchases increased an average of 40%, according to the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing award-winning case study presented by the company and Horowitz Associates Inc. in 2003.

Still, there have been no commercial installations of the product since the Time Warner pilot, Raneri said.

The company still has relationships with 300 cable networks and studio providers. NBC joins that list as of June 6 and will provide video clips of its shows for viewing by portal users.

MeeVee also plans to expand into content streams for mobile devices and intends to syndicate content to third party vendors. For instance, MeeVee could license applications to newspaper Web sites expanding entertainment coverage.

MeeVee users can rate programs for other users, and create a personal viewing planner to include favorite shows, stars or movies. The Web application can e-mail the planner every week.

MeeVee has not given up on on-screen guides, but sees the Web portal as a way to make its search technology available to all video consumers, including future users of IP-delivered content. The Web application will allow MeeVee to create a consumer brand then go back to networks and other potential clients with a product with proven popularity.

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