Miniweb is aiming to transform interactive television following a management buyout of the SkyKeys television web site services from British satellite broadcaster BSkyB. Ian Valentine, who led the development of the SkySites concept, is launching a revived initiative to promote the use of TV Keys as numeric shortcuts to online services that can be accessed through a television remote control.

Ian Valentine has completed a management buyout of the SkyKeys interactive television service he launched with satellite broadcaster BSkyB in 2005. BSkyB has retained a minority stake in the company. Their former director of technical alliances was previously co-founder of waptv, the company acquired by Sky which developed the WTMVL micro-browser on which the SkyKeys interactive television web sites and other interactive applications were based. The WTVML XML mark-up language, similar to the WAP specification used on mobile phones, was subsequently adopted as an open ETSI standard.

The new Miniweb concept aims to combine television viewing, online services and interactive advertising across multiple digital television distribution platforms. It will replace the SkyKeys service with a new interactive television environment that will be available in over 8.5 million satellite homes in the United Kingdom by the end of 2007. Miniweb says that it will also soon work on new digital terrestrial television devices.

“With the growth of home networking and broadband enabled consumer electronics devices, there is a growing demand for a standards-based interactive platform that enables the quick and easy deployment of web-style interactivity on TV,” said Ian Valentine, the founder of Miniweb. “By removing the barriers to entry and reducing the cost of development, our solutions are making this new networked interactive TV experience a reality and enabling new revenue generating TV business models.”

Miniweb says that television has so far lacked the standards that allow a web site developer to create a site once and have it work everywhere. The company claims that its standards-based WTVML platform will enable web developers to create what it calls a TV Site, which can be viewed on multiple platforms on various set-top boxes or consumer electronics products.

TV keys are memorable words, brand names or generic words that translate to simple numeric codes for use with TV remote controls, providing direct access to interactive television sites. Miniweb will charge businesses to register and use TV Keys which can then be placed and used in advertising and promotions.

Miniweb will also provide broadcasters and channel operators with a low cost way of supporting channel or programme specific interactivity by using a TV Key as a verbal or visual call to action. Entering a TV Key will take viewers to a page displaying the channel in quarter-screen. The viewer is then automatically redirected to the on-line service.

Applications are delivered online, over a freephone dialup connection in the case of existing Sky boxes, or possibily a broadband connection for future set-top boxes.

The cost of developing and delivering services in this way is likely to be considerably less than using traditional interactive television applications.