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March 28, 1996

TELE-TV GIVES UP ON INTERNATIONAL SALES

By CBR Staff Writer

The Tele-TV consortium has shut down efforts to sell its interactive television wares abroad, according to Interactive Week. A company source told the newswire that Dan Saginario, the group’s senior vice-president, and three salespeople were asked to leave last month. The action is the latest evidence of retrenchment at the once heavily hyped joint venture of Bell Atlantic Corp, Nynex Corp and Pacific Telesis Group, which two years ago planned to wire the US for interactive television services. The venture’s plan to reach several million homes with wired services this year has largely been replaced by a bet on wireless cable television distribution, which most likely will not be pushed heavily until next year. Tele-TV decided its efforts to sell interactive equipment packages outside the US were not strategically or financially worthwhile, according to president Ed Grebow. We were selling end-to-end interactive systems, which included equipment from a variety of Tele-TV’s equipment partners, he said. The original concept was you would cookie-cut the system and sell it around the world. But there’s a lot of customization that needs to be done. Telecom Italia SpA was the only carrier with which Tele-TV had struck a deal. The Italian is using one of the systems in a trial with several hundred households. Tele-TV intends to support that trial through the end of the year, Grebow said. How, if at all, Tele-TV’s programming efforts are affected by the shutdown on the systems side is unclear. Grebow said interactive television is not as hot abroad as it appeared to be when Tele-TV set its initial plans two years ago. But the appointment earlier this month of Roger Fishman, former Hard Rock Cafe president of worldwide marketing, to handle Tele-TV’s worldwide marketing and advertising activities indicates the company’s programming efforts will still reach beyond US boundaries. Peter Bernstein, president of Infonautics Consulting Corp in Ramsey, New Jersey, told Interactive Week that the cancellation might even signal more changes to come: This might be the tip of the iceberg in a lot of these things falling apart, Bernstein said, explaining that the telecommunications companies are wandering beyond their core competencies with such efforts.

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