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DirecTV to Offer Consumer-Centric Features

Business Week reports that News Corp. owns 76 percent of NDS, the onetime Israeli company that comes up with tech wizardry like "smart codes," which are programmed with complex algorithms that keep TV beamed from Murdoch's global fleet of satellites from getting into the hands of pirates.

Now the NDS brainiacs are cooking up a jam-packed set-top box for News Corp.'s U.S. satellite service, DirecTV. The pay-TV boxes will let viewers assemble their own shows from snippets of different programs, change camera angles for sports events, even stream some Internet programs from the Web onto their TVs. "Rupert sees technology as a weapon," says NDS CEO Abe Peled, a former Israeli platoon commander and top IBM scientist.

Satellite can't yet compete in data and phone, given its one-way service from the skies downward. But NDS is providing plenty of bells and whistles, including a service that boosted DirecTV subscriber counts by offering several games simultaneously on the screen during March Madness.

Its "hybrid" DVR will use DSL to offer Internet on the TV screen. And in a lab in Costa Mesa, California, researchers are readying other services: a feature that lets viewers record programs by simply clicking on the network TV promo and another that streams content from News Corp.'s newly acquired IGN Internet game site. Further down the road is a wireless Net technology that will enable video-on-demand for mobile devices.

Since taking control of DirecTV in 2003, Murdoch's mission has been to lure subscribers from cable by slashing prices, giving away set-top boxes, and paying big for ads. Now comes the second wave: a technology offensive. During a recent stroll through NDS's Costa Mesa facility, the 75-year-old proudly reviewed his arsenal. "We expect NDS to build up new offerings and to improve DirecTV's market share," he said with a crocodile grin. Translation: The war for viewers is about to escalate.

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