Certification to Spark More Sales for WorldGate

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With last week's announcement of certification by set-top box manufacturer Scientific-Atlanta, interactive television provider WorldGate Communications -- boasting an e-commerce-through-television platform -- can now be accessed through the Scientific-Atlanta set-top box.

Scientific-Atlanta and Motorola's General Instrument division are two companies that produce most of the set-top boxes that cable companies distribute to customers to carry their signals. WorldGate is now accessible through both companies' boxes.

"In the world of cable television, when you want to put an application up on a set-top box, it has to go through certification by the set-top box manufacturer to make sure that it does not, in any way, shape or form, interfere with the rest of the system," said Gerard Kunkel, senior vice president at WorldGate Communications, Trevose, PA.

The certification means that the WorldGate service, which is most closely related to an application like WebTV, can now be used by cable operators to market their digital package upgrades to consumers. Additionally, more consumers can now use WorldGate to order products and services on the Internet through their television sets.

"This certification will help us bring this e-commerce through the TV applications to many more people," said Kunkel. "We work with a number of Internet companies, like iQVC, who provide real-time e-commerce through the TV, which is synchronized with the television broadcast signal and works right through the company's Web site. Also, many cable operators are using the WorldGate service as an incentive to get people to sign up for digital cable, which from a direct marketing perspective makes a lot of sense."

WorldGate's recent deployment of its services through Pennsylvania's Blue Ridge Communications cable system is an example of how this marketing strategy can be used to beef up sales for digital cable, Kunkel said.

WorldGate has about 45,000 customers worldwide. But that number will increase significantly through a deal with Microsoft for inclusion on its interactive television entry, MSTV. Microsoft runs off the Motorola set-top box, giving WorldGate's dual versatility a favorable edge in the race to secure cable operators, Kunkel said.

"MSTV is designed for use by cable operators through their digital set-tops, just like WorldGate," Kunkel said. "It is the cable operator who makes a decision on the box and then decides whether they would want the service to run through the box."

There are 1.5 million Scientific-Atlanta digital set-top boxes in use in the United States, and that number is expected to skyrocket as more and more cable companies switch over to or include digital services.

"These boxes are going out in wide distribution," Kunkel said. "What this means is that any cable operator who wants to provide Internet application through the TV set can do so through the set-top box using WorldGate's software system."

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