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Gemstar-TV Inks Licensing Deal with Sky

Electronic program guide (EPG) supplier Gemstar-TV Guide International has signed a patent license agreement with another News Corp.-controlled entity, U.K.-based satellite operator British Sky Broadcasting Limited (Sky). The agreement with Sky, the U.K.'s largest pay-TV provider, is the first EPG deal for Gemstar with a cable or satellite operator outside the U.S. The company's international efforts have previously been limited to deals with TV set manufacturers, such as a recent deal with Philips.

The multi-year agreement, specific terms of which were not disclosed, allows Sky to use Gemstar-TV Guide’s licensed intellectual property in electronic program guides (EPGs) deployed on Sky’s various platforms in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Sky has been using guide software developed by NDS, a provider of conditional access and interactive TV software that is also controlled by News Corp. But the Gemstar-TV guide deal doesn't mean that Sky is dropping its NDS-powered guide. According to Dov Rubin, VP and general manager of NDS Americas, the agreement is more about Sky licensing relevant patents held by Gemstar-TV Guide for Sky's existing EPG than modifying its viewers' on-screen interface. Rubin notes that U.S. satellite operator DirecTV had already worked out a similar arrangement with Gemstar-TV Guide for its EPG.

"The Gemstar patents pretty much relate to everything about a program guide," says Rubin. "As long as you're picking things off a grid, it relates to their patent."

For his part, Gemstar-TV Guide CEO Rich Battista said he is “very pleased" with the new relationship with Sky.

"Over the past few years, we have successfully extended our patent licensing program to markets in Europe, particularly through deals with consumer electronics and set-top box manufacturers," said Battista in a statement. "This agreement with Sky is important as it represents our first patent license with a European television platform operator, and additionally, I believe it signifies the growing value of our intellectual property around the world.”