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MetaTV Adds Options to TVWorks

As expected, TVWorks, the Comcast Corp.-Cox Communications Inc. TV-software-development joint venture, said Wednesday that it has bought MetaTV Inc. for an undisclosed price, adding an applications-development company to the Liberate Technologies middleware assets now owned by the two MSOs.

The acquisition helps to round out Comcast’s vision of bringing in-house interactive-TV-software application and development as the industry battles direct-broadcast satellite and potential telephone-company video competitors.

MetaTV is developing interactive-TV applications for both the OpenCable Application Platform and the OnRamp to OCAP platforms. Both Cox and Comcast participated in MetaTV’s $21 million series-D funding round in 2002.

“It’s a company we’ve worked with a lot in the past,” Comcast senior vice president of digital TV Mark Hess said in an interview. “It’s a natural fit into TVWorks.”

TVWorks is majority-owned by Comcast and minority-owned by Cox. It bought Liberate’s domestic assets earlier this year.

“This is a recognition of the commitment we’ve had to MetaTV through the years,” added Jeff Brown, executive director of development and investments at Cox. “We want them to be the application layer that will ride on top of OnRamp to OCAP and OCAP.”

In April, Cox said it was beginning to deploy MetaTV services -- such as customer-service applications that let subscribers pay bills or upgrade programming via remote control -- with employees and a group of “friendly” homes in Pensacola, Fla.

Comcast used MetaTV in a test of information services and games in Baltimore. MetaTV has also been integrated with Microsoft Corp.’s “Microsoft TV Foundation” platform, which Comcast has deployed in the Seattle area.

“Our focus is on getting ready to deploy full-fledged OCAP,” Hess said, but Comcast is still assembling all of the parts necessary for OCAP implementations.