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Comcast-Cox J.V. buys MetaTV

Tue, 07/12/2005 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

Ending a week of speculation, TV Works, a joint venture of Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications, has inked a deal to acquire interactive television application specialist MetaTV Inc. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Under the agreement, TV Works will hire all of MetaTV's employees (roughly 80), and the division will continue to operate out of Mill Valley, Calif. There, akin to an in-house iTV application developer, the unit will create iTV products for Cox and GuideWorks, a joint venture of Comcast and Gemstar-TV Guide International.

Those applications will be designed to run on a range of set-top and software platforms, including OCAP (OpenCable Application Platform) and OnRamp to OCAP, a project for legacy digital set-tops being championed by Cox. In May, MetaTV announced the integration of its Digital Application System with Navigator 5, Liberate's implementation of OnRamp.

The deal represents another piece of the interactive television (iTV) technology puzzle for Cox and Comcast, which both had investments in MetaTV. In January, TV Works (a.k.a. Double C Technologies) gained control of the middleware component of that strategy when it put up $82 million to acquire most of the assets of Liberate Technologies.

The Liberate and MetaTV agreements tighten Cox's commitment for OnRamp and OCAP, and place the application and middleware elements under one umbrella, noted Jeff Brown, executive director of development and investment for Cox Communications.

Cox has been working with MetaTV for several years, and has deployed a number of MetaTV interactive applications (i.e. news, weather, games and customer service) in its Gulf Coast Florida systems. Comcast, meanwhile, has used the MetaTV information application to pipe data to Microsoft TV Foundation, a digital set-top software platform the MSO has deployed in Washington State.

Cox and Comcast officials said the acquisition of MetaTV will not preclude other iTV application developers from creating products for the MSOs. It's designed instead to create a more open environment, because the joint venture will also provide developers with APIs based on the MetaTV application layer.

"We're looking forward to simplifying, not complicating, applications that are to be deployed by the company," Brown said.

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