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Charter jump-starts pace of interactive TV

Apr 2, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Need a cup of Joe? Maybe some rapid streaming news and sports updates on Charter Communications’ interactive TV network can give you your morning jolt.

The multiple system operator took a major step into the digital interactive age last week when it announced it selected Liberate Technologies’ software as the backbone of its interactive TV service platform.

When the services are deployed later this year, Charter will become the first major American multiple system operator to provide its customers with the ability to switch between traditional television, Internet and high-speed streaming media features. To date, most American interactive TV viewers have been limited to slower, more awkward Internet-on-television services such as the AOL TV system, which is run on a box from Philips Electronics.

But Charter subscribers will soon be able to access streaming updates of news and sports programs that are delivered much faster than most Internet or television news-based real-time content seen to date. The secret to the high-speed streaming video lies in a cable modem that will be paired with customers’ Motorola DCT5000 set-top boxes.

The announcement marks a major victory for Liberate, which beat out competitors Microsoft and OpenTV to win the deal. Liberate’s software will allow several different interactive applications, including video on demand from Diva, an interactive programming guide from Gemstar-TV Guide and an Internet and rich media service managed by Digeo Broadband to be run together on the Motorola devices.

Charter subscribers will have access to the entire World Wide Web on their set-tops, although certain selected content producers’ creations will be featured more prominently in a walled garden selected by Digeo. Last week, Digeo was still busy negotiating content partnerships for that walled garden, according to sources close to Charter Communications.

Under the new arrangement with Liberate, Charter must deploy Liberate’s services for at least 300,000 subscribers over the next five years. However, Charter is hoping their interactive offering will reach a much broader customer base than that within the next year or two, sources close to Charter said.