Comcast to Control its TV Platform with Liberate Deal

Comcast to Control its TV Platform with Liberate Deal

Michael Harris

January 13, 2005

2 Min Read
Comcast to Control its TV Platform with Liberate Deal

During a presentation to investors in Phoenix this week Comcast chief Brian Roberts made it clear that America's largest cable company will not cede command of the user interface and application environment for its advanced television services. 'We want to be in control of the consumer's experience, not be using a third party,' Roberts said. Not coincidentally, that same day Comcast and Cox announced a plan to purchase the North American assets of Liberate Technologies. Through the deal, the Comcast-controlled joint venture called Double C Technologies will receive substantially all of Liberate's North American assets and intellectual property, including its TV Navigator platform, for $82 million in cash. Double C plans to hire about 130 Liberate employees, primarily located in London, Ontario, Canada. In a nutshell, Liberate's Java-based set-top box middleware and servers enable key interactive services such as electronic program guides, video-on-demand services, games, TV portals and information tickers. Liberate's TV Navigator can run on legacy thin-client set-tops, or more robust boxes capable of supporting the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP). With its market clout, it will be interesting to see if Comcast will move to drive licensing deals for the TV Navigator platform with key consumer electronics (CE) players in the coming years as part of the cable industry's effort to implement a two-way CableCARD standard for digital cable ready devices. This way, Comcast could create a homogenous consumer interface environment for devices that appear on its network, including digital TVs, DVRs and DVD players, much like mobile carriers do for cell phones and PDAs. Liberate began operations in late 1995 as a division of Oracle. In April 1996, the company was spun off as Network Computer, Inc., and in May 1999, it changed its name to Liberate Technologies. At that time, Liberate landed $50 million in venture funding from a long list of strategic investors, including Cox and Comcast, of course. A year later, Cisco invested $100 million for less than a 4% stake in Liberate -- a hallmark deal during the days of irrational enthusiasm. Liberate will retain control of its European business, which counts such marquee cable customers as NTL, Telewest and UPC.

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