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Expanding on EPG

Electronic program guides (EPGs) have helped digital cable operators reduce their churn rates. Now Burlingame, Calif.-based MyDTV is looking to help analog or digital broadcasters—terrestrial stations, satellite broadcasters and cable companies—maintain and even increase viewership by expanding on the concept.

The company has developed a "recommendation and content-filtering guide" that gathers programming information and alerts viewers when content of their choice is airing while they are watching another program or channel. The prototype service is free to consumers, who must provide user-profile information and specific keywords. The viewer can choose to go to the suggested program or not.

"Not only will it tell you that a news program is on, for example, but it will also alert you to specific subjects within that news broadcast and when they will appear," explains Jonathan Barker, MyDTV executive vice president of business development.

The service is being tested in-house at CBS affiliate KLAS-TV Las Vegas and ABC affiliate KESQ-DT Palm Springs, Calif. MyDTV is evaluating several business models under which it might make exclusive deals with one or two stations in a market. According to founder and President Gil Dudkiewicz, the company is closing a major deal with a cable MSO, which he declined to identify.

Phil Pikelny, director of new media for KLAS-TV parent Landmark Communications' Broadcast Division, finds the service "very interesting," especially if consumers migrate to personal video recorders (PVRs) and primarily watch recorded TV. He wants to see how his stations' content might be more accessible with MyDTV if, for example, a weather emergency occurs in a market where his station alone is affiliated with MyDTV.

"If cable and satellite companies offer PVR functions, which also look to be in our future, people may be getting EAS or breaking-news alerts over recorded programming," he explains. "Then there's a whole different set of circumstances involved in getting them back to live TV. MyDTV will bring them directly back to KLAS-DT, so that's a positive reason to be working with them.

"Assuming that consumers with MyDTV will be plugged into a station's newsroom computer exclusively via the set-top," he adds, "we're in a much better position to have it be our content than somebody else's."

MyDTV is also working with suppliers of interactive middleware, such as OpenTV and Scientific-Atlanta's PowerTV, to have its program guide installed in cable set-top boxes; with Triveni Digital, for over-the-air applications; and with TICI Software Systems Inc., for satellite TV.

"The goal is to be on as many platforms as possible," says Barker.

MyDTV charges participating broadcasters a licensing fee "that is far less than other guides," Dudkiewicz says, but does not share in any revenue generated. He declined to specify the precise fee.