In interactive move, OpenTV to buy rivals

Deal would make service available in 35 million homes

Interactive TV technology company OpenTV said Thursday that it plans to acquire two of its rivals: ACTV, for $92.3 million in stock, and Wink Communications, for $101 million in cash.

With OpenTV operating as a subsid of John Malone’s Liberty Media, the company’s deals are considered a way for Malone to fold some of his interactive TV holdings into one entity.

Liberty had previously expressed interest in taking over the 84% of ACTV it didn’t already own and had purchased Wink last month for $102 million.

Through Liberty Media, Malone indirectly controls United Pan-Europe Communications, Europe’s largest cable operator; owns 25% of No. 2 British cable firm Telewest Communications; and has minority stakes in News Corp. and AOL Time Warner.

The cable holdings are expected to give companies like OpenTV an easier way to roll out interactive services that, for example, let viewers shop and bank using their remotes and “ride along” with NASCAR drivers during races by switching among in-car camera angles.

The acquisitions of the companies are expected to make OpenTV available to 35 million homes.

Should OpenTV’s shares fall below 80¢, however, ACTV has the right to terminate the deal. OpenTV’s stock closed Thursday down 14¢ to $1.32, a loss of nearly 10%.

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