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OpenTV Adds New Execs in iTV Expansion

Interactive TV-tech company OpenTV has named a spate of new senior executives to its ranks, including a new chief operating officer, as it looks to grow its market share for iTV services with major broadcasters and advertisers.

The company, which has operations in San Francisco and Amsterdam, said it named Wesley Hoffman to the position of executive vice president and chief operating officer. Hoffman replaces Tim Travaille, who joined as interim COO after OpenTV (through its majority owner, Liberty Media) acquired Wink Communications, which builds interactive advertising and commerce programs that run on digital set-top boxes.

Prior to being hired at OpenTV, Hoffman was president and CEO of ICTV, a Calif.-based maker of software that enables interactive programming on digital cable systems.

Separately, ICTV said it named Mike McGrail as president and CEO of ICTV to replace Hoffman. OpenTV is a strategic investor in ICTV.

In a signal of the growth of patents in the interactive television space, the company also named Thomas Ewing as vice president and chief intellectual property officer, a newly-created position. Prior to joining OpenTV, Ewing was a patent attorney for the law firm of Fenwick & West LLP in San Francisco, where his experience included prosecuting patent infringement cases and defending patent applications.

A company spokesman did not elaborate on the new strategic direction that the positions herald for the company. But the newly-created positions at least signal that interactive television on digital platforms -- and the potential those new platforms represent -- is gaining in market acceptance. According to GartnerG2, the business strategy research division of Gartner, as of mid-year 2003, 22 million U.S. households were upgraded to digital cable, out of a total base of 66 million cable households in the U.S. (The total household base in the U.S. is 106 million.)

Other senior executives hired into new positions are Thomas Hagopian, who joins as senior vice president and general manager of programming and advertising at OpenTV.

Hagopian was formerly an executive with an online division of Gemstar TV Guide . He is expected to oversee OpenTV's commercial relationships with all the programming networks and broadcasters and advertisers, OpenTV said. His career also includes positions in interactive divisions with Cablevision Systems and with Interzine productions, an online start-up company once backed by AOL and TCI, and was was later sold to Times Mirror.

The other new executives are Constance Pettit, who joins as senior vice president of advertising from the YES Network in New York, and Bill Harvey, a former consultant with the company who joins full time as senior vice president and general manager of research.

James Ackerman, CEO of OpenTV, said the areas of expertise of the new senior executives would help OpenTV expand its business domestically and overseas.