Video software

Itaas Spiffs Comcast's Cisco Boxes for EBIF

The term Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) might be going away as a consumer-facing brand, but the technology will be around for a while. (See The Cable Show 2010: News Roundup .)

Those millions of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) customers tethered to legacy set-top boxes will soon realize the benefits of EBIF-powered interactivity on a broader level, following the completion of Comcast's integration and development work with itaas Inc. that will bring such apps to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)-made set-tops. (See Itaas Ports EBIF to Cisco Boxes.)

The two companies have been working on a user agent built on EBIF specs from TVWorks LLC , a Comcast subsidiary, and the cableco has already deployed EBIF on more than 20 million Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) set-tops in roughly 12 million homes. Comcast expects to start testing the user agent in its Cisco footprint later this year.

Through EBIF (cable's new consumer-facing brand for all things ITV is "SelecTV," by the way), MSOs can deploy relatively simple interactive apps like caller ID, weather and news widgets, and customer self-service direct to its full base of deployed digital boxes. This latest round of work will allow Comcast to bring EBIF to its entire customer base.

"In traditional fashion, the cable operator might not be the first to the party, but they are putting a lot of energy and resources into getting interactivity out the door," says Jim Elayan, itaas's vice president of marketing and business development, on competition in the pay-TV space.

The cable operators had to first address interactivity in their legacy STBs, which is where EBIF came into play. Even those that had begun deploying tru2way boxes didn't have a large enough footprint to be compelling, Elayan says. Now they're moving ahead on both fronts.

Itaas has been working on interactive TV for nearly 10 years, but the sector is just starting to get interesting. Itaas has several tru2way apps in the works, including a Twitter app that Bright House Networks is testing. (See Itaas Does Twitter for Tru2way and Cable Show 2010: The Hot List.) This week at The Cable Show in Los Angeles, itaas will also be demoing interactive apps developed for In Demand LLC as well an EBIF app, developed with Clearleap , that's designed to to enhance the video-on-demand experience. (See In Demand, Itaas Strike ITV Deal and Clearleap Ties Web TV With EBIF.)

"Interactivity's beauty is being able to select what you want,” Elayan says. "When you get a banner that comes up during the TV program or commercial, there's nothing you can do. You have to wait until it's gone. With an app, you can choose how much interactivity you want."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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