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AOL, Gemstar in TV pact

AOL licenses Gemstar's technology to develop AOL TV electronic programming guides that will incorporate features of interactive navigation with television.

Online giant America Online today said it has entered into a technology licensing agreement with Gemstar International Group to develop AOL TV electronic programming guides.

AOL hopes that using Gemstar's intellectual property and technology will allow it to develop its own customized electronic programming guides for AOL TV, incorporating features of interactive navigation with television, the company said. Members will be able to use the guides to sort programs by theme or category to watch or record, AOL said.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Today's move comes just two weeks after AOL announced partnerships with DirecTV, Hughes Network Systems, Philips Electronics, and Network Computer (recently renamed Liberate Technologies) in which the hardware firms will provide advanced set-top boxes and satellite services for AOL TV.

AOL's strategic onslaught is indicative of the escalating battle to connect consumers to the Internet through devices other than personal computers.

Earlier this month, software titan Microsoft invested $5 billion in AT&T, giving the company an in to provide an additional 2.5 million to 5 million set-top boxes running Windows CE to power AT&T's cable systems with next-generation broadband services. The agreement came on the heels of AT&T's acquisition of cable operator MediaOne in a $54 billion cash deal to offer both broadband and local phone services.

"Gemstar's technology will help AOL TV offer the best in interactive navigation for the television experience and will be a key component of the AOL TV service," AOL president Bob Pittman said in a statement.

AOL TV is scheduled for launch next year, and the company expects to offer members a new AOL interactive service on the television platform, one that will include aspects of AOL's current services as well as new features designed to enhance the television-viewing experience.

The set-top boxes initially will be connected to AOL through built-in 56-kbps modems over standard phone lines and will be upgradeable to high-speed connectivity, the company said.

Gemstar's electronic program guide services allow users to view a television program guide on screen, find out details about shows, and perform other functions, through the remote control. Gemstar's technology is licensed to several companies in the consumer electronics, satellite, cable, and personal computer industries, including Sony, Hitachi, Hughes Network Systems, and Microsoft.