Video software

Comcast, itaas Engage on EBIF

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and itaas Inc. have sealed a deal to develop and sell a deployment package to help U.S. MSOs roll out interactive applications based on the Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF).

Itaas will license an EBIF engine developed by TVWorks LLC , an ITV firm that's now owned by Comcast. Cox Communications Inc. , once a minority stakeholder in TVWorks, left the venture earlier this year. (See Cox Severs Ties to TVWorks.)

Comcast and Duluth, Ga.-based itaas didn't disclose financial terms of the deal.

Although most major MSOs, including Comcast, have EBIF deployments underway, the itaas/Comcast effort could help them launch enhanced TV applications to catch up with rivals. DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) have already deployed a raft of interactive applications, and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), to the dismay of many in the cable industry, was among the first to adopt and deploy the CableLabs -specified EBIF platform.

"We're having conversations with quite a few operators, big and small," says itaas CEO Vibha Rustagi.

The offering is getting started with roughly eight validated applications from partners such as Showtime Networks Inc. , TAG Networks, Integra5 Communications Inc. , and iCueTV. Triggering EBIF

The initial version of the itaas/Comcast EBIF package is tailored for digital cable systems from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), but TVWorks is developing a version for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) environments too, Rustagi says.

Despite working with a giant like Comcast, itaas's success isn't guaranteed. It's vying against other vendors of EBIF players and platforms, including Zodiac Interactive and BIAP Systems Inc.

The number of vendors creates a complication: Although EBIF players and applications should work together, early adaptations will differ, forcing vendors to do some work integrating the pieces. (See TV Apps Teams Face Cable Conundrum.)

Itaas is involved in another Comcast-related EBIF project: HITS AxIS, a centralized EBIF platform for smaller MSOs that's being headed up by the Comcast Media Center (CMC) and Motorola. Operators such as BendBroadband , Buckeye CableSystem , Metrocast Comunications, and Sunflower Broadband have signed on as beta sites. (See More MSOs Test 'HITS AxIS'.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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