Interactivity would allow subscribers to employ their television sets in a variety of interesting ways, including ordering merchandise with a simple click of a remote, checking local restaurants' menus, or even controlling their utilities from the televisions. OpenTV's role in that advance would occur through its provision of a software layer -- called "middleware" -- in the set-top box that makes interactivity possible.
But the cable companies have been notoriously slow to deploy new technologies, and OpenTV is suffering as a result. Indeed, while the company's revenues rose 3% in the June quarter to $24.3 million, from $23.7 million last year, its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization swung to a negative $1.1 million, from a positive $0.4 million a year ago. At the same time, its per-share loss doubled to $0.04.
OpenTV once operated in a league with a number of small developers and providers of interactive broadcast functionality. Today, it's pretty much a Lone Ranger, as most of its former brethren found it impossible to hang on in the face cable's ultra-deliberativeness.
Now, though, while I wouldn't suggest that my Foolish friends touch a share of OpenTV, there may just be a glimmer of light at the end of its tunnel. Comcast, for instance, appears to be speeding up its movement toward interactivity. Indeed, interactive deployments could ultimately become a key defense mechanism for cable in its growing competition with telephone companies AT&T
So while OpenTV may actually still have a future, its time as a sensible name for Fools to slip into their investment portfolios is still way, way out there.
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Fool contributor David Lee Smith shamelessly admits that he stares at the boob tube far more than he should. He doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned, but he welcomes your comments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.