Matsushita inks set-top box deal

10 million units expected to sell in Europe

TOKYO — Japanese electronics firm Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said Wednesday it formed a partnership with U.S.-based TV software company OpenTV to produce interactive set-top boxes that use the MHP format of digital broadcasting.

The two companies will try to unify standards of digital television transmissions through the venture as well as jointly developing MHP-compliant hardware and software by 2001 or earlier by integrating OpenTV’s interactive TV technology and Panasonic’s digital TV technology, the two said in a statement.

One of their main focuses will be in Europe, where they plan to sell about 10 million boxes over the next two to three years, local press reported citing industry sources.

The market for interactive set-top boxes is heating up with the likes of Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Sony Corp. being among the industrial giants that are in partnerships to produce the devices.

Last year, Matsushita said that it will supply about 400,000 set-top boxes to Rupert Murdoch’s British satcaster BSkyB by March 31.

The boxes will be used for BSkyB interactive services that start this fall and can give customers the ability to do tasks such as buying tickets or taking care of banking needs through the satellite service.

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