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Another IPG Vendor, iSurfTV, Comes Out

New York-Yet another company has joined the interactive program guide fray. Last week, iSurfTV Corp. unveiled an IPG product at a Paul Kagan Associates conference here, showing industry and Wall Street executives a demonstration that ran on a Scientific-Atlanta Inc. "Explorer 2000" digital set-top.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company seeks to compete in an arena that's been dominated by Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc., but has become more crowded in recent months.

In July, WorldGate Communications Inc. took the wraps off of its "TV Gateway" IPG venture, which boasts Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Adelphia Communications Corp. and Charter Communications Inc. as investors. Tribune Media Services and Source Media Inc., backed by MSO Insight Communications Co., are also shopping IPGs to cable operators.

Executives at iSurfTV, like those promoting other would-be Gemstar-TV Guide replacements, said they believe cable operators want competition in the IPG sector. "They're looking for choice," said iSurfTV CEO Gene Feroglia.

Feroglia's company has a development deal with Scientific-Atlanta and integration deals with software providers Liberate Technologies Inc., PowerTV Corp., OpenTV Corp. and Microsoft Corp., Feroglia said.

The iSurfTV IPG demonstration displayed several categories, such as news, sports, and kids programming, on the bottom left portion of the screen. Once the viewer clicks on a category, the logos of networks in each sector are displayed at the top of the screen. When the user clicks on a network logo, the video from the selected network appears in a picture-in-picture display.

All of the processing required for iSurfTV's product is done in the set-top, Feroglia said. No additional headend equipment is required for an operator to offer the IPG.

Feroglia said the company's IPG could be configured in a grid system similar to the Gemstar-TV Guide product, but he believes that iSurfTV's approach is more visual and effective.

"It doesn't make sense to put a computerized spreadsheet onto a television," Feroglia said.

Feroglia said the company has several U.S. patents pending, and insisted that iSurfTV's technology does not infringe on patents held by Gemstar-TV Guide-which zealously guards its intellectual property-or by other companies.

The company is backed entirely by venture-capital firms, Feroglia said.

The chairman of iSurfTV is Roel Pieper, a general partner at venture-capital firm Insight Capital Partners of New York and Amsterdam. Pieper has held CEO posts at AT&T Corp.'s Unix Systems Laboratories, UB Networks and Tandem Computers, which he later sold to Compaq Computer Corp.

At the Western Show, iSurfTV hopes to make a big splash. The company has rented a 20-feet-by-40-feet booth, Feroglia said.