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Cox Severs Ties to TVWorks

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
3/25/2009
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Cox Communications Inc. has dissolved its interest in TVWorks LLC , the interactive television (ITV) joint venture that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Cox created about four years ago, Cable Digital News has learned.

TVWorks got off the ground in April 2005 when Cox and Comcast, under a partnership originally called Double C Technologies LLC, purchased the North American assets of ITV software firm Liberate Technologies for roughly $82 million. Later that year, TVWorks acquired MetaTV, another ITV company, for an undisclosed sum.

A Cox spokesman called the decision to dissolve that relationship "amicable," but people familiar with the joint venture say the move was spurred on by the fact that the ITV priorities of Comcast and Cox never quite synched up. And the interests of Comcast, the majority holder of the joint venture, typically received the most attention.

"There was always stress in that relationship," says a cable industry familiar with the inner workings of the J.V. "Some [projects] overlapped, and some things didn't."

One example: Cox is a champion of "OnRamp," a lighter set-top middleware that's targeted to legacy set-tops and forward-compatible with the full version of tru2way. Comcast, meanwhile, hasn't embraced OnRamp nearly as strongly.

And Cox has evidently been preparing itself for a separation from TVWorks, the most recent example being its close relationship with NDS Ltd. , which is collaborating with the MSO on a new interactive program guide/navigation system and the porting of several interactive applications to the tru2way platform. (See Cox Puts NDS at Heart of Tru2way Plan and NDS Navigates Its Way Into Cox.)

Cox and Comcast wouldn't disclose the financial terms of the separation, but TVWorks will continue on as a wholly owned subsidiary of the latter, a Comcast spokeswoman confirms. TVWorks has about 300 dedicated employees, with offices in Mill Valley, Calif.; and London, Ontario, Canada. Comcast also has a majority interest in GuideWorks LLC , a venture it now shares with Macrovision Solutions Corp. (See Macrovision to Buy Gemstar-TV Guide for $2.8B.)

The Comcast official says TVWorks, which also builds and sells ITV products for MSOs outside the original partners, has created a transition team to ensure that it's meeting all of its contractual obligations.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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