Recent calls to iSurfTV headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. have been met with disconnection messages. Now we know why.

Tribune Media Services (TMS) said it has acquired "a significant patent portfolio" tied to iSurfTV's interactive program guide and interactive television technologies. Financial terms were not disclosed.

TMS said it will use those assets to complement its own "passive" electronic programming guide application, newspaper magazine print guides and its Web-based guides and affiliate sites.

Adding iSurfTV's technology to the mix will likely make TMS a much stronger competitor in the cable IPG market, which is presently dominated by Gemstar TV Guide International, Scientific-Atlanta and Pioneer Electronics (USA). Microsoft TV and TV Gateway are among those trying to grab market share in the cable IPG arena.

TMS said an IPG with some iSurfTV technology has gained approval from Motorola Broadband's ACADIA Application Integration Center, which awards certification to applications for Motorola-made digital cable set-tops. TMS has yet to launch that IPG commercially. Cablevision Systems Corp. is a customer of TMS' passive program guide.

TMS hopes to raise the bar with iSurfTV's 3D guide technology, said John Kelleher, general manager of TMS' electronic program guide group.

TMS is in the process of delivering the associated equipment and software to its home base and technical team in Chicago, he added, noting that an undisclosed number of former iSurfTV employees have joined TMS or are working on a contract basis, Kelleher said.

iSurfTV's technical prowess did not translate into many deployments. Although it did offer a version that worked on thin-client DCT1200 and DCT2000 digital set-tops, the only trial the company announced was in mid-2002 with United Latin America Inc.