Following its successful $77 million initial public
offering, Wink Communications Inc. has signed up another formidable taker for its
Discovery Communications Inc. inked an agreement last
week to integrate Wink's technology into both Discovery Channel and The
Learning Channel starting later this year.
Wink allows viewers to obtain additional information
related to program content or advertising as they're watching TV with the click of a
remote. Wink provides interactive overlays, which appear as graphics and text, and the
service is available free-of-charge to users with Wink-enabled cable boxes.
"Our mission is to bring the stories and adventures of
the real world into viewers' living rooms," DCI president and chief operating
officer Judith A. McHale said in a prepared statement.
Discovery's extensive reach was one attractive aspect
of the deal for Wink. Discovery Channel reaches nearly 77 million subscribers in the
United States, while TLC adds around 70 million.
Wink hopes to tap into the enormous electronic-commerce
potential that both networks could deliver with the interactive Wink product.
One hypothetical example would be a cooking show on TLC.
The Wink enhancement -- which resembles a pop-up closed-captioning box -- would allow
viewers to purchase the recipe of the dish being created on the show.
Wink has an established fulfillment capability that would
make this type of transaction possible. "Wink's technology is perfectly suited
for the high-quality, engaging programming from Discovery Networks [U.S.]," Wink CEO
Maggie Wilderotter said.
Wink is affiliated with 21 other cable programmers, most
notably ESPN and The Weather Channel. TWC allows Wink-assisted viewers to check out local
weather conditions on-demand while watching coverage of broader weather stories like
Wink has also signed up the four major broadcast networks
and five of the top six MSOs. AT&T Broadband & Internet Services, Comcast Corp.,
Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable offer Wink
technology on their systems.
In addition, Wink has an agreement with
direct-broadcast-satellite provider DirecTV Inc., which is also an investor in the
Through these affiliations, Wink is currently available in
40,000 households in such markets as Kingsport, Tenn.; St. Louis; and Maryville, Ill. As
its major cable-operator partners continue to roll out advanced-analog and digital set-top
boxes, Wink hopes to see its penetration numbers soar.
Wink's Aug. 19 IPO made a lot of its well-heeled
investors, including Microsoft Corp., quite happy.
Microsoft, which spent $30 million for a 10 percent Wink
stake before the offering, now has a holding with an estimated value of $100 million.
Other investors that benefited from the IPO include DirecTV
and Vulcan Ventures Inc., the investment arm of Microsoft cofounder and Charter principal
owner Paul Allen.