Tele-Communications Inc. plans to deploy one-dozen
interactive applications developed by CableSoft Inc. in its Hartford, Conn., and
The service will be TCI's first foray into
interactive, on-demand TV applications with the digital set-tops that it is receiving from
General Instrument Corp., said Sonya Khademi, president and CEO of CableSoft.
It is also the first commercial launch for CableSoft, she
When installed in the fourth quarter of this year,
customers in TCI's 100,000-subscriber Pittsburgh system and its 170,000-subscriber
Hartford system who take the MSO's "Digital Cable" service will be able to
instantly access local weather, traffic, sports, entertainment and lottery listings, among
William Mitchell, senior vice president of TCI Atlantic
Inc., the East Coast operating arm of TCI, said in a prepared statement that
CableSoft's 12 channels of "timely, essential information are as easy to use as
clicking your remote control," and he expects to provide "a tremendous value to
our customers, while fully leveraging this as an advertising vehicle and new revenue
CableSoft made a decision during the tail end of the last
interactive-TV heyday to embrace as many open platforms as possible, as they became
available, Khademi said. The client-server system runs on a Microsoft Corp. Windows NT
server, with a "thin client" for the set-top that works with HTML (HyperText
Markup Language) and with existing analog middleware like Wink Communications Inc.'s,
The software is also configured to run on Windows CE and
PersonalJava, when those techniques find their way into digital set-tops, she added.
Khademi said the decision years ago to pursue an
open-technology model turned out to be a good one.
"We noticed that in the world of interactive TV,"
circa 1994 and 1995, "there turned out to be a lot of dead bodies and, when you
turned them over, they were hugging a piece of proprietary hardware," she said.
Not wanting to wind up in a similar state, CableSoft chose
the open path, and it put together a business model where subscribers get the services
"We didn't think that it was a good business move
to say, 'This is really cool stuff, and you can have it for $10 per
month,'" in a fledgling market where subscribers may not understand how to
interact with their TV, said Kate Adams, executive vice president of CableSoft.
Instead, CableSoft arranged for a revenue split with MSOs
that take the service, like TCI. Terms of the split were not disclosed.
Digital Cable subscribers in the two markets will be able
to access local weather; local traffic that's refreshed every three minutes; sports
scores from ESPN's "SportsTicket"; a restaurant guide; personal ads;
classified ads; a community-business directory; and local community information,