Microsoft to Invest $30M in Wink To Promote Enhanced TV

In a move that further strengthens Microsoft's position in the digital set-top environment, the Redmond, WA software giant has inked a deal with Wink Communications, a developer of interactive TV services to promote interactive content and commerce based on the specification for Interactive Television of the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum (ATVEF).

Wink will use Microsoft's television software platform to optimize its Response Network Service, which provides broadcasters and cable operators with viewer response services. Microsoft, in turn, will use Wink's Response Network to handle certain ATVEF-based advertising direct response services. As part of the agreement, Microsoft invested $30 million in Wink.

Depending upon industry response, the agreement could help accelerate the wide acceptance of interactive television, both through analog and digital television services. Initial services will be deployed on Microsoft's WebTV Network. The ATVEF specification defines a content format for interactive television based on industry standards such as HTML and IP Multicast. The Forum was formed in July 1998 and has 14 founding members and almost 50 adopters representing broadcast and cable networks, television stations, cable and satellite service providers, consumer electronics and PC and software vendors.

In a related development, Wink also has signed a multi-year strategic agreement with Thomson Consumer Electronics to integrate the Wink-Enhanced Broadcasting technology into RCA DirecTV receivers, which are scheduled for market launch this fall.