News.com writes on the battle for the future of digital entertainment [thanks to Jayen Mehta for the link]:

“The interactive programming guide is going to be the first thing you see when you turn on the television, and that’s what everybody’s fighting about,” said Richard Sherrill, senior vice president of the ITV group at Kitro Media, who has a long history in the cable TV industry. “They all want to control it: The cable guys say they own it, TV Guide says it owns that real estate, even TV manufacturers want a piece of it.”

For years, on-screen programming guides have been little more than electronic versions of paper TV listings, reflecting the limited designs of the boxes that housed them. But today, Gemstar and its competitors are experimenting with set-top devices that combine the functions of a DVD player, video recorder, digital jukebox and game arcade, as well as deliver hundreds of channels.

By directing consumers to a multitude of content, interactive guide companies could become the make-it-or-break-it marketing vehicle for new TV network shows, subscription services or pay-per-view programming. The guides are also seen as vehicles for “t-commerce”–television commerce–with the potential to lead to lucrative advertising and retail revenue-sharing agreements with cable or satellite operators licensing their technology.

“The more choices you have in entertainment programming, the more time consumers will spend in front of a guide,” said Josh Bernoff, analyst at Forrester Research. “Any guide company is in a central, powerful position. The same way companies like Yahoo and AOL are crucially important to guide people on the Internet.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.