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Cable Clicking With Remote Shopping Apps

After years of hype, "t-commerce" appears to be gaining some momentum, as technology vendors near deployment of applications that allow subscribers to use remote controls to buy DVDs and other products or pay their cable bills.

Among recent examples, Cherry Hill, N.J.-based iCueTV Inc. has recently partnered with SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC), a major video-on-demand (VoD) vendor that counts Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) as a key customer. The companies will soon announce plans to run a market test of a service that would let cable subscribers watching a VoD movie buy the DVD with a click of a remote control. (See icueTV, SeaChange Click on ITV.)

While iCueTV has yet to reveal any distribution deals with major MSOs, it did conduct a test early last year with Buckeye CableSystem of Ohio that allowed subs to purchase DVDs of programs advertised on Discovery Channel. It used the Comcast Media Center (CMC) 's centralized "HITS AxIS" platform for the Buckeye test. (See Buckeye First to Test 'HITS AxIS' , Comcast Media Center Buffs Up for EBIF , and CMC Validates iCueTV.)

iCueTV COO George Singley says the firm is also talking to Canoe Ventures LLC -- the advanced advertising venture backed by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), and Bright House Networks -- about testing its t-commerce platform. (See Canoe CTO: 'T-Commerce' Coming in 2011.)

Executives at iCueTV say they're also talking to CMC and Microsoft Advertising about deploying products based on its commerce platform starting next year. [Ed. note: Microsoft Corp. acquired interactive TV advertising technology vendor Navic Networks in 2008, and later renamed the unit Microsoft Advertising. (See Microsoft Nabs Navic .)]

iCueTV is competing against FourthWall Media Inc. , Ensequence Inc. , and other interactive TV software vendors looking for a cut of the t-commerce sector.

FourthWall recently hooked up with billing and customer care specialist CSG Systems International Inc. (Nasdaq: CSGS) to pitch MSOs an app that lets cable subscribers view and pay their bills on TV. (See FourthWall, CSG Connect on EBIF.)

The application is based on the industry's Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) standard. iCueTV also uses EBIF.

FourthWall has also notched a deal that will result in a "TV Buy Button" app that lets cable subs use their PayPal accounts to purchase products advertised on TV. (See FourthWall Partners With PayPal.)

FourthWall chief product officer Ellen Dudar said the firm is also working with PayPal to allow local merchants that advertise through FourthWall’s "Yellow Pages on TV" application to conduct PayPal transactions.

"For the new features like the buy button, we have had an enormous amount of interest from smaller operators," Dudar said.

FourthWall already supplies interactive TV applications to several pay-TV distributors, including Time Warner Cable, Charter, Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), and OneLink Communications of Puerto Rico. (See FourthWall Notches EBIF Wins.)

— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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