NEW YORK (AP) _ Sony Corp. reportedly is poised to advance in the U.S. cable market's digital products race.

The Japanese consumer-electronics giant plans to spend $188 million for a 5 percent stake in a maker of advanced digital TV set-top boxes, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

Sony would pay about $25 per share for 7.5 million shares of NextLevel System, Inc., the newspaper said.

The plan was expected to be announced today.

The deal would strengthen Sony's presence in the U.S. cable market by positioning its products for an anticipated rise in demand for interactive and digital services in the United States.

NextLevel's new set-top devices aren't expected on the market for another two years, but they would have more memory and computing power than other models. The products are the next step in the U.S. cable industry's push for two-way cable conduits that can carry high-resolution movies, telephone services and data.

NextLevel also has considered the possibility of selling part of itself to Microsoft Corp., the newspaper said.

NextLevel declined comment. Microsoft officials could not be reached by the Journal for comment.

NextLevel shares closed at about $18 on Friday. Its 52-week high was $21.50. The Sony purchase offer would boost its premium 38 percent.