Tribune Buys Way Into IPG Space - Multichannel

Tribune Buys Way Into IPG Space

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Seattle -- Tribune Media Services, the huge TV-data provider, is getting into
the interactive-program-guide business, buying out iSurfTV Corp.’s patent
portfolio.

Tribune plans to announce the acquisition Tuesday at the CTAM Summit here.
Officials wouldn’t disclose deal terms.

John Kelleher, general manager of electronic program guides for the Tribune
Co. unit, said, "Cable operators have been asking us for a long time" to provide
an IPG, because TMS already provides guide data, advertising and a passive guide
channel (Zap2it).

He said Tribune would emphasize IPG flexibity in terms of the look, how it’s
branded and other features.

The IPG has already been certified by Motorola Inc.’s Acadia Application
Integration Center, and it is designed to work on Motorola Broadband
Communications Sector’s baseline "DCT-2000" digital set-tops.

The IPG business is already competitive, with Gemstar-TV Guide International
Inc.’s TV Guide Interactive dominating on the Motorola platform.
Scientific-Atlanta Inc. offers its own guide, and cable operators also use the
Pioneer Consumer Electronics "Passport" IPG on S-A boxes. (Kelleher said the
Tribune guide isn’t designed to work on S-A boxes.)

The big-MSO-backed TVGateway LLC effort fizzled, as did privately owned
iSurfTV’s own attempt to get into the space.

And, of course, Microsoft Corp. is making another big push to get into the
IPG arena, announcing Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable deployments here
Monday.

Kelleher said Tribune’s selling points include the parent company’s financial
heft and 150-year history, along with TMS’ strong operator ties -- Cablevision
Systems Corp. is the biggest user of the Zap2it channel -- and expertise with
IPG data.

He said Tribune’s data savvy would help in shoring up current video-on-demand
IPG weaknesses. And he added that iSurfTV’s patents include the ability to give
the guide a "3-D" feel, although one of the dimensions is rather "flat" on the
low-memory DCT-2000 boxes.

Kelleher said Tribune planned to have a demonstration version of the guide
ready in a couple of weeks in Chicago. He added that Tribune would likely try to
get some experience on cable systems, possibly with small operators, before
expecting to crack big-MSO accounts. An early call, he said, likely will be to
the National Cable Television Cooperative.

Affiliate deals would likely include subscriber fees and certain other fees,
but he said the deal economics would be flexible, as well.

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