Checking EBIF's Heartbeat

11:35 AM -- If Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) is to become a vital part of cable's big foray into interactive ads and applications, it's important that those apps actually, you know, work. MSOs also need some visibility into the EBIF apps themselves so they can pinpoint any trouble as it arises.

It's that latter piece, EBIF monitoring, that Mixed Signals Inc. hopes to solve with a software upgrade for its Sentry video monitoring system. (See Mixed Signals Monitors EBIF.)

That software, says company CEO Eric Conley, provides visibility into the underlying EBIF data, whether it's delivered as a "bound" application (such as a poll or request for more information that's synched to a live video program or advertisement) or "unbound" (for example, a game that's not associated with a live program).

Being able to monitor for both EBIF app types is important, but bound apps require that the interactive components show up on time. If they don't, cable could be faced with some revenue-losing make-goods if EBIF-enabled ads don't work as they're supposed to.

"We have to monitor all of the synchronization around [EBIF]," Conley explains, noting that Sentry's EBIF monitoring system is designed to send an alarm when something's amiss and to generate audit reports to help confirm when and why something indeed did go wrong.

EBIF is the latest addition to Sentry, which is also designed to monitor broadcast video, switched digital video, and video-on-demand streams. Its new monitoring component is coming into focus as several major MSOs conduct some network "pipe cleaning" in preparation for a big interactive ad campaign. (See Cable Breaks Out the ITV Drano .)

Mixed Signals is just not getting the EBIF upgrade out the door in "soft release" as it's prepped for a full launch.

The vendor hasn't indicated who's on board for that upgrade, but it claims to have Sentries deployed with nine of the top 10 US cable MSOs, and three of the top five in Canada.

Bright House Networks and Buckeye CableSystem are among its announced customers, and both happen to have EBIF plans underway. Buckeye's doing some EBIF work with the Comcast Media Center (CMC) ; Bright House, meanwhile, is a backer of Canoe Ventures LLC , the cross-MSO advanced ad venture that's getting ready to launch a national EBIF-based request for information (RFI) campaign. (See Buckeye First to Test 'HITS AxIS' .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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