Time Warner Goes Interactive with OpenTV

Time Warner Cable is using the same company that powers EchoStar Communications Corp.’s interactive platform to launch interactive-TV services nationwide on Motorola Inc. set-tops.

Its multiyear license deal with OpenTV Inc. -- headed by former Time Warner chief technology officer Jim Chiddix -- marks the interactive-TV-software vendor’s first license agreement with a major U.S. cable operator.

OpenTV -- which first displayed its software running Time Warner’s new “Digital Navigator” program guide at the National Show in April -- will allow Time Warner to offer its subscribers interactive games and TV shows, along with mosaic program guides like DirecTV Inc.’s “Newsmix” and “Sportsmix” channels.

While Time Warner and other cable operators have deployed millions of advanced digital set-tops from Motorola, Scientific Atlanta Inc. and other vendors, most operators haven’t downloaded middleware software to the boxes that would enable interactive TV.

Cable has pointed to its two-way pipe as a key advantage over satellite rivals, but DirecTV and EchoStar have beat U.S. operators to market with interactive-TV applications ranging from multiple camera angles in sporting events (DirecTV’s National Football League package) to interactive advertising (Dish Network’s interactive ads, which allow subscribers to test-drive cars from Mercedes-Benz USA LLC and other sponsors).

Time Warner and OpenTV said Tuesday that the agreement will also allow the MSO to "facilitate cross-platform integrated services and speed to market new product introductions" (look for integration with Sprint Nextel Corp. cellular phones).

Chiddix told Multichannel News in April that OpenTV was negotiating a deal with Comcast Corp. that would cover both interactive advertising and a settlement of litigation with Liberate Technologies Inc. (now controlled by Comcast).

OpenTV stock should get a bump on Wall Street Tuesday on the Time Warner news. It closed at $3.46 per share Monday, gaining 8 cents (2.37%).