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MICROSOFT MAY MAKE
SET-TOP TV PLAY

Investment In Sky Global Could Position Company Against AOLTW In Interactive TV Race
Microsoft is reportedly in the market to invest more than $1 billion—a 3.5% stake—in News Corp.'s Sky Global Networks satellite TV unit, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Sky Global consolidates all of News Corp.'s global satellite TV assets and investments, which include Hong Kong satellite TV broadcaster Star TV, News Corp.'s 40% stake in U.K. satellite TV system BskyB and News Corp.'s investments in Latin American satellite TV platforms.

Before the bottom dropped out of the tech stock market, News Corp. had hoped to take Sky Global public by this fall. That plan has now been pushed back into next year. If the Microsoft deal goes through, however, it would serve as a boost toward that end.

News Corp.'s plan for Sky Global involves more than just becoming a provider of satellite-delivered entertainment, news and sports channels. Eventually, Sky Global hopes to bring wireless broadband Internet access to home computers and hand-held devices. News Corp. has already begun talks with Nokia (a valuable link to wireless technology) and Yahoo (a possible Internet distributor of Sky Global news and entertainment services).

The Sky Global deal is just one part of Microsoft's larger interactive TV plan. The company has already struck deals with cable giants such as AT&T and United Pan-Europe Communications in the Netherlands. Both are slated to use Microsoft TV technology in set-top boxes.

The Sky Global play is an important one for Microsoft, especially with the America Online-Time Warner deal nearing approval. If things go AOL-TW's way with federal regulators, the combined company would be at the forefront of the potentially lucrative, burgeoning interactive TV market. A Sky Global-Microsoft pact could pose some competition to that.

The Journal reports that while talks are progressing smoothly, a deal is nowhere near imminent at this time.

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