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OpenTV Gets Major Equity Partners

Owners of certain new EchoStar satellite receivers may be enjoying new interactive TV features through the OpenTV software platform, thanks in part to new partnerships announced by the developer of the enhanced television platform.

OpenTV said six global media and Internet companies have purchased approximately $31.25 million worth of Convertible Preferred Equity in the interactive television software company, which is a subsidiary of MIH Limited of Amsterdam.

The investments “will enhance OpenTV’s U.S. position and will allow it to expand the range of interactive applications available to its global client base,” according to a statement on the deals.

Five of the six companies are new strategic investors in OpenTV, including America OnLine, General Instrument, Liberty Digital, News Corp. and Time Warner. Sun Microsystems is a founding partner and also a major investor in OpenTV.

The company said proceeds from the investments will be used to fund the development of its growing applications business, which enables networks and content providers to offer enhanced programming, such as “t-commerce” (e-commerce on the TV) and interactive advertising, and for further development of software for digital set-top boxes.

Under the terms of the agreement with AOL, the two companies will “work to bring some of AOL’s communications features, including e-mail and instant messaging, to the OpenTV platform,” the companies said.

The agreement with News Corp. includes the use of a special release of the OpenTV software in the News Corp.-developed World Box-2 digital set-top box. The special version of the OpenTV software will be “designed to meet News Corp.’s specifications,” the statement said.

OpenTV said its set-top box software has been shipped with or installed in more than 4.3 million digital set-top boxes worldwide.

EchoStar’s Dish Network plans to begin offering interactive services using the OpenTV software early next year, and OpenTV hopes to have digital cable set-top boxes running its software engine in the near future.