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OpenTV HITS jackpot in long-delayed deal

Wed, 01/16/2002 - 7:00pm
Anne Kerven

Nearly six months after it announced talks were underway, OpenTV closed its deal with AT&T's Headend In The Sky to use HITS' satellite transponders to deliver virtual interactive channels.

The announcement wasn't unexpected: OpenTV CEO Jim Ackerman said in July the company was talking to HITS "with the intention to deploy games, information-on-demand and commerce services. This will enable small operators to deploy interactivity," he told reporters at the time. An AT&T spokesman responded back then that HITS and OpenTV hadn't signed a deal.

OpenTV anticipated then that the deal would close within a few weeks, allowing fourth-quarter trials.

"Talking about a potential deal and completing all the necessary steps takes time," says AT&T spokeswoman Tracy Baumgartner.

OpenTV spokeswoman Helen Chung confirmed the gap between talking and signing a deal takes time. "OpenTV is pleased the deal with HITS is now complete, and we now have another vehicle in which to help accelerate the growth of iTV in the U.S. market," she says.

OpenTV provides set-top middleware; the deal would let cable networks write TV applications for the HITS platform, powered by its product. The deal would give OpenTV access to about 4 million households.

Under the deal, OpenTV would download its middleware to HITS affiliates' already deployed DCT-2000 set-tops, OpenTV Senior VP of Marketing Michael Collette said in July. The technology would allow OpenTV to transmit such applications as news, weather and gaming via HITS channels — part of the broadcast model, Collette said. Commerce and transactional services would follow.

Liberate Technologies also has struck a deal with HITS to offer iTV services and applications. Under that multiyear deal, HITS would use Liberate's TV Platform Compact software platform on the DCT-2000 set-tops.

Liberate VP of Marketing Charlie Tritschler says Liberate has already passed the needed "metrics" of testing and certification, and is up and running. Liberate also has incorporated TV Guide into its product, and says HITS is licensing the Liberate product, as opposed to having to pay for carriage. Liberate has struck a deal with a HITS affiliate, although it hasn't launched service yet, he adds.

Today's announcement of the multiyear deal says OpenTV will gain access to more than 275 cable operators affiliated with HITS. OpenTV would provide a bundled iTV package that includes middleware and interactive programming from its content subsidiary, Static 2358.

Neither OpenTV nor AT&T would disclose financial terms.

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