OpenTV( OPTV) said Thursday morning that one of its interactive television services would be dropped from DirecTV next month.
DirecTV's decision to drop OpenTV's Wink service -- a move that will affect 10.4 million of the satellite operator's set-top boxes -- cuts off business that amounted to 2% of OpenTV's revenue over the past nine months. It eliminates one of the three major carriers of Wink in the U.S.
Finally, the move spotlights shifting relationships and complicated loyalties in the interactive TV market, which has for years held out the promise of revolutionary changes in TV viewing habits and industry economics, but so far has failed to deliver.
Shares in OpenTV -- a controlling stake in which is held by John Malone's
-- fell 51 cents Thursday, or 10%, to $4.43.
The announcement comes the morning after OpenTV announced results for the third quarter ended Sept. 30. As OpenTV said Wednesday evening, the company reported revenue of $17.1 million for the quarter, up from $13.4 million in the third quarter of 2002. Adjusted EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- also ignoring such items as share-based compensation expense and impairment of equity investments -- amounted to a loss of $5.8 million, compared to a loss of $17.1 million one year earlier.
OpenTV said that DirecTV notified it about dropping Wink after the conclusion of Wednesday evening's conference call with analysts. "We were not prepared to renew our DirecTV agreement on terms that were neither economically viable nor in the long-term best interests of our company," OpenTV CEO James Ackerman said in a statement.
Wink, which enables viewers to react to specially programmed TV shows and commercials through activities such as participating in polls or requesting more information about an advertised product, remains available on
Dish Network satellite service, and through cable operator
DirecTV is awaiting government approval of a deal in which Rupert Murdoch's
would gain a controlling stake in its parent company, Hughes Electronics. Separately, News Corp. has a major stake in
Gemstar-TV Guide International
( GMST), which operates an interactive programming guide and has been working on developing interactive TV advertising for several years. OpenTV parent Liberty, meanwhile, owns a major stake in News Corp.