TIME WARNER SWAPS GUIDES FOR INTERACTIVE TRIAL

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Time Warner's Full Service Network has switched allegiances in interactive on-screen listings guides, ending a three-month relationship with TV Guide On Screen and signing on Prevue Networks instead.

Time Warner and TV Guide On Screen, a joint venture of TV Guide parent News America Publications and Tele-Communications Inc., cited creative and technical differences in their decision to part.

The TV Guide On Screen system did not mesh easily with the Full Service Network's navigational system, being developed by Silicon Graphics. A Full Service Network spokeswoman said it would have confused subscribers to see the same features on both the navigator and listings guide.

Prevue will offer Full Service Network subscribers its Prevue Express Plus Video on-screen guide, which provides video clips, movie descriptions and a program grid that subscribers can control. Prevue's basic, scrolling on-screen guide is already available in Time Warner's Orlando system and several other cable systems nationwide.

"It sounded like [TV Guide On Screen] had a very rigid agenda, and at this stage of the development of interactivity, that doesn't seem very appropriate to me," said Joe Batson, president of Tulsa, Okla.-based Prevue Networks.

Time Warner and Silicon Graphics simply had different ideas about how the TV Guide On Screen product would be used, said Bruce Davis, president of the on-screen guide company based in Englewood, Colo.

"We couldn't figure out how to work together on it, so we stopped trying," Mr. Davis said. "What they were looking for was a couple of pages of information."

Interactive on-screen guides are expected to be a hit among consumers, helping them browse through a virtually unlimited array of programming choices. But moving from concept to reality has been a slow process.

TV Guide On Screen, Prevue and a third competitor, StarSight Telecast, all are dependent on makers of TVs and set-top boxes to develop products that have enough memory to store TV listings, personal channel preferences and one-touch VCR recording capabilities.

"The only issue is hardware: how fast can the box manufacturers get the hardware in the marketplace," said Bob Russman, VP-cable marketing and sales at StarSight Telecast, Fremont, Calif.

So far Prevue has been the most active, signing up cable systems in Fairfax County, Va., and Worcester, Mass., to its Quikvue-a basic interactive service-and Time Warner's Greater Rochester Cable in New York to Prevue Express.

StarSight last week began rolling its units into Viacom Cable's Castro Valley, Calif., system and also will be available in Zenith TVs starting this summer.

TV Guide On Screen is courting cable systems. It will be on TCI's Mount Prospect, Ill., system this fall but has no other announced partners.

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