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WebTV lures developers

WebTV, still awaiting approval of its acquisition by Microsoft, launches a package to help developers create content.

WebTV Networks today announced a developers' program to help content companies create online content for consumers who access the Internet on a WebTV set-top box.

WebTV PrimeTime for Developers includes technical, artistic, and marketing resources. It lists Colossal Pictures, Silicon Reef, Zentropy Interactive, and 30 other firms as initial members.

The program seeks to boost developers to create content specifically for WebTV subscribers, who get a different view of the Net than PC users because of the difference in screens and interfaces. WebTV is still awaiting approval of its acquisition by Microsoft (MSFT).

WebTV terminals are manufactured and sold by Sony Electronics and Philips Electronics. The hardware requires users to secure Internet access through WebTV.

The new program includes development tools such as the WebTV Simulator for desktop computers, code libraries, and templates. It also addresses viewer behavior, how to refine Web site for particular kinds of viewers, traffic reports, and usability studies.

Annual membership in the developers' program will cost $750 initially, including access to the program's Web site, a year of network connection, discounts on other WebTV products, and a WebTV terminal, remote control, and wireless keyboard. The company will host a "producers' ball" developer conference in August.