Bridging Cable's Tablet Gap
SAN FRANCISCO -- The TV of Tomorrow Show -- As MSOs make plans to stream subscription video services to IP-connected iPads and TVs, they're also figuring out ways to bridge their interactive TV applications to a new world that doesn't use traditional set-top boxes. (See CES 2011: Samsung Puts MSOs in the Picture and Comcast Keeps Eye on the iPad Prize.)
They have good reason to do so. Cable operators and programmers have spent millions developing Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) and tru2way apps that are presently locked to set-top boxes, so they'll be careful not to abandon all that work and investment as the industry shifts to IP video and leans more heavily on devices that take a "virtual" approach to the set-top. (See The Disappearing Set-Top and Cisco: Set-Tops Are Going Away.)
One prime example is Canoe Ventures LLC , the cross-MSO advanced ad venture. It's using EBIF -- already deployed on more than 25 million set-top boxes -- for its request-for-information (RFI) service. So, real money could be left on the table if support isn't extended to iPads and connected TVs. (See The Disappearing Set-Top and Cisco: Set-Tops Are Going Away.)
There's no one way to bridge that gap, but panelists here discussed several options that are being weighed.
Among the more cloud-centric options, cable's also looking at transcoding EBIF into a Web application in a central location and delivering it directly to the end device. Another possibility is to ingest TV content centrally and extract the EBIF elements and make it available as a Web application, De Andrade noted.
Whatever direction that work takes, it should also work in the tru2way world. EBIF (sometimes referred to as "enhanced TV") is essentially a plug-in for tru2way, which can also support formats like Flash. That kind of common, technical baseline will help cable bridge ITV to other devices "and reach them a bit more cleanly," said Don Dulchinos, SVP of advanced platforms and services at CableLabs .
Canoe, meanwhile, is developing a Web services model, and is already using it for its ITV templates, said Malia Flynn, Canoe's vice president of product development. But EBIF remains the starting point. "The vision is to extend and create that national platform," she said.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable