OpenTV Makes OpenCable Agreement

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Interactive TV firm OpenTV is further strengthening its presence in the U.S. cable market by agreeing to join CableLabs’ OpenCable digital cable standardization initiative.

OpenTV, which Tuesday announced a multiyear deal with Time Warner Cable to use its interactive TV software on millions of Motorola digital set-tops, will become an active member of the OpenCable standards process and license its patents as part of the OpenCable consortium. OpenTV had already participated in OpenCable meetings in the past, says CEO Jim Chiddix, but this announcement reflects a formal commitment to the OpenCable process and supporting the OCAP interoperable software/middleware application platform.

OpenTV’s digital TV software is used by satellite operator EchoStar and is deployed on millions of set-tops internationally. But Tuesday’s deal with Time Warner Cable, under which OpenTV will provide interactive TV software for many of the roughly 3.5 million cable homes that Time Warner is acquiring from Adelphia, is the company’s first big win in the U.S. cable market. Chiddix, who served as chief technology office for Time Warner Cable before joining OpenTV two years ago, says the OpenCable agreement is another step toward OpenTV’s mainstream involvement in the North American cable market. He says OpenTV is currently in discussions with other major operators but the Time Warner deal is the only U.S. contract at this time.

"This is a good first step," says Chiddix.

OpenTV won’t have to make any significant tweaks to its software to allow Time Warner to support innovative interactive applications such as "Start Over," which lets a digital subscriber tuning into the end of a live show jump back in time and watch the program from the beginning. Chiddix notes that OpenTV already demonstrated its software working on a Motorola box at the NCTA show in Atlanta this spring.

"This is what we do for a living," he says. "It’s just a matter of taking our standard software product and integrating it with a Motorola set-top box. We’re working with Time Warner to write a new EPG [electronic program guide] as an application on our software."

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