Electra Entertainment Unveils its New Interactive TV Middleware

--OpenTV Holds Worldwide Rights to Market the Platform

--Electra Taps Pace Micro Co-Founder, Barry Rubery, as CEO

Last month, Electra Entertainment--a company that was founded in
early 2003 by Static 2358 founder, Jasper Smith, and former
Gemstar-TV Guide CTO, Jonathan Drazin--unveiled its new interactive
TV middleware platform.
The company claims that the proprietary
middleware, which its says has been in development for three years
"with substantial investment," allows "fast, efficient, and content-rich"
interactivity on low-cost/low-resource digital receivers and other
consumer electronics devices.

According to Electra, the new middleware, which it is licensing
free-of-charge to major manufacturers for use in set-top boxes, DVR's
and integrated digital television sets, enables interactive TV
applications that run 10 to 100 times faster than competing solutions;
requires less than 1% of the bandwidth required by competing
solutions; and supports both DSM-CC OC and TCP/IP SSL v3. It also
uniquely operates over both digital terrestrial broadcast and networked
IP environments, the company says.

Electra is a wholly owned subsidiary of General Entertainment
Technology (GET), Jasper Smith's recently established holding
company which also controls an 81% stake in Static 2358 and the
latter's PlayJam ITV games service. Smith recently repurchased that
81% stake from OpenTV (see article in this issue), which retains a 19%
share of Static 2358 and which also holds the worldwide rights to
market Electra's technology to its customer base. Static 2358, which
manages global operations for OpenTV's content business (it claims to
have built and tested over 3,000 applications and delivered them to
over 100 pay-TV operators), has developed a service, called Trove, for
Electra's new middleware, which it says delivers targeted content
(through partnerships with such companies as IPC Media and Cartoon
Network) and advertising to individual set-top boxes and TV sets:
according to Static, broadcasters and operators can customize and
rebrand the application, offering free, pay-as-you-go and monthly value
packages. The company says that the IP version of the application,
dubbed iTrove, offers the ability to deliver content simultaneously over
DVB and IP, enabling real-time interaction for live betting, social
networking, messaging and audience response. "Electra allows content-
providers and manufacturers to 'own' their digital TV viewers via a
rich, sticky, customizable portal that isn't diluted by individual channel
ratings and can be deployed in mass markets to derive a plethora of
revenue streams," Smith said in a prepared statement. "The phenomenal
consumer take-up of digital television in the UK and the roll-outs in
Asia and Europe create many exciting opportunities for us to deliver a
new era of interactivity to millions of viewers worldwide."

In related news:

  • Electra has tapped Barry Rubery, the co-founder and former CEO of
    UK set-top box manufacturer, Pace Micro Technology, as its chief
    executive. Rubery, who co-founded Pace in 1982, left it in 1996,
    shortly after it was floated on the London Stock Exchange for £750
    million. "Electra's technology allows broadcasters to harness fully the
    potential of interactive revenues, enhancing loyalty and reducing
    churn," Rubery said in a prepared statement. "I'm delighted to be back
    in the industry, this time delivering the next phase in IPTV
    entertainment." Added Jasper Smith: "I am delighted that Barry has
    chosen to join Electra. His industry foresight, commercial acumen and
    proven track record will ensure that under his leadership Electra is able
    accelerate its roll-out to a wider base of customers."

  • John Swingewood, a high-profile figure in the UK interactive TV
    industry, has been appointed as a strategic advisor to the board of
    General Entertainment & Technology. "Electra's middleware is free to
    deploy and enables the delivery of fast, efficient and content-rich
    interactivity to low-cost digital receivers and other consumer
    electronics devices, creating the potential for a plethora of revenue
    streams," Swingewood said in a prepared statement. "With Freeview
    now the largest digital TV platform in the UK, this is certainly an
    exciting time to work with manufacturers opting Electra and its
    Trove/iTrove services." According to GET, Swingewood spent 25
    years at BT, where he was responsible for transforming the company's
    Broadcast Services into a £250 million global business, and where he
    also served as director of the company's Internet and Multimedia
    division. He subsequently became director of new media at BSkyB,
    where he led the company's efforts in Internet, ecommerce and online
    TV services, in addition to its telephony and WAP efforts. He also
    founded the Digital Interactive Television Group and The Gaming
    Channel, which were sold to YooMedia. He is currently an active
    investor in various entrepreneurial ventures, and holds non-executive
    director positions at several technology companies.