Four Japanese electronics giants – Matsushita Electric Industrial, Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi - have teamed to develop the nascent market for interactive TV.

The quartet will set-up two companies to front the venture: ePF Net, capitalised at ¥200m, will cover the R&D side of the business; while new TV station e-Port Channel (¥80m) is scheduled to launch late in 2001. Between them they aim to create an industry standard for set-top boxes and programming for Japanese digital TV.

Heading both companies will be Matsushita associate director Chosaku Toda, who announced that the interactive service will be available through cable TV and mobile phones.

The duo will provide interactive shopping, banking and ticketing services to an anticipated three million subscribers, and is expected to become profitable within three years.

The four parent companies claim their data storage technology will give them an advantage over other interactive services.

News source: Financial Times