U.K. subs able to get stats, digital recording, 'Net access

British cable operator NTL will partner with Microsoft TV software platform to deliver enhanced interactive television services to consumers in the United Kingdom with its set-top boxes.

Through the deal, NTL’s subscribers will be able to play along with gameshows, get sports statistics and access on-demand video and audio clips, as well as surf the Internet, e-mail, chat and digitally record programming without a videotape, similar to the TiVo Inc. and Replay systems.

Microsoft’s WebTV is also incorporating the function into its set-top boxes in the U.S.

As a result, the agreement is expected to speed up the development and deployment of new high-speed Internet technologies and services to customers across the U.K. and the rest of Europe.

European landing

Microsoft has been dabbling with entering the European market for some time. The deal would not only give it a considerable interactive presence in the region but also position it up against OpenTV, which has been a dominant interactive TV provider with satcaster BSkyB.

“NTL and Microsoft have a shared vision of helping deliver enhanced television services and programming to consumers worldwide,” said Barclay Knapp, prexy and CEO of NTL. “By using Microsoft TV, an Internet-based platform built on industry standards, we’re able to offer our customers market-leading enhanced TV services that will set the standard for what Digital Terrestrial TV can be.”

NTL is the first major company to include digital video recording capabilities in the U.K.

No surprise

The partnership with Microsoft doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Microsoft invested $500 million in NTL, the TCI of Britain, last January, giving it a 3% stake in the company.

“We are very excited to partner with a pioneer like NTL to bring advanced interactive television services to consumers,” said Phil Goldman, general manager of Microsoft’s TV Platform group. “Microsoft’s leadership in developing innovative software for making television more useful, fun and engaging, will combine with NTL’s ability to customize and develop interactive and enhanced TV content to set the standard for the enhanced TV experience in the U.K. and elsewhere.”

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