EchoStar pacts for OpenTV’s services

Satcaster to use company's software in set-top boxes

OpenTV Inc. on Wednesday announced it had inked a seven-year deal with EchoStar Communications Corp. to provide digital interactive television services to the satellite television provider’s 1.6 million Dish Network subscribers in the U.S.

Under the agreement, EchoStar will license and deploy OpenTV’s technology and software through Dish’s digital set-top boxes beginning in summer 1999. OpenTV is already available in European markets.

Among the services being included in the U.S. are an interactive electronic program guide, e-mail and Internet access for television, weather forecasts on demand and a variety of e-commerce services, including home banking and music merchandising.

EchoStar customers, however, will not be able to access OpenTV using their current set-top boxes, said Charlie Ergen, EchoStar chairman and CEO.

The current boxes do not feature enough memory capabilities to operate the system, he said. Subscribers will have to purchase a second box.

The company sells about 80,000 boxes a month, Ergen said.

“We believe that interactive television is not simply ‘the Internet on your TV,’ ” said Jan Steenkamp, CEO of OpenTV. “EchoStar’s Dish Network is the ideal medium for the first U.S. deployment of truly interactive services for people who enjoy watching television.”

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