Aiming to jump-start digital growth, cable overbuilder Knology has launched a slate of interactive television services in Montgomery and Huntsville, Ala.

There, Knology is offering two flavors of interactive services: Knology iTV and Knology iTVx, a subscription-based service.

Knology iTV allows the company's digital preferred subscribers to use their remote controls to access news, sports, stock information, horoscopes, pay-per-view movie listings and classic parlor games such as checkers and backgammon. Knology iTVx service, for an additional $6.95 per month, enables customers to send and receive e-mail (up to five different accounts) via the television and a wireless keyboard, which the operator sells for $29.95. The iTVx service also features personalized content such as news, sports scores and weather forecasts.

To fuel interest in its new interactive packages, Knology is offering a free digital upgrade and three months of free service. Knology said it expects to roll out iTV services to its other seven systems by the end of 2003.

On the technical front, Knology is powering its iTV slate with Scientific-Atlanta Explorer digital set-tops and S-A's "InView" information-on-demand service, which uses the same HTML engine that lives inside the PowerTV operating system.

Knology also linked InView to its own Web servers, enabling the operator to customize and personalize interactive content and add standard Web-based applications such as e-mail, noted Knology Manager of Interactive Media Mark Adams.

Knology is also tapping Pinnacor (formerly ScreamingMedia) for interactive content. ScreamingMedia became InView's first "customized" content provider back in mid-2001.

Taylor Nipper, Knology's senior director of marketing, said the company hopes the service will drive and retain digital customers, but would not disclose how many of Knology's 140,000 cable customers are taking the digital package.

But in Montgomery, where Knology initially started offering iTV on a limited basis back in August, the company realized reduced digital churn and better digital sales and signups, Nipper said. He added, though, that it was too early in the game to provide specific figures.

Knology also plans to add video-on-demand to the mix, as well. Knology presently offers VOD in one market — Columbus, Ga. - but company officials weren't ready to say when it will be launched in other Knology markets.

In the interim, Knology is also evaluating S-A's Explorer 8000, a digital cable box that features an on-board digital video recorder, and S-A's HD-capable set-tops.