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Cablevision Gets Interactive

Despite being a paying member of the cross-MSO Canoe Ventures LLC advanced advertising consortium, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) is paddling ahead with its own interactive advertising system.

Cablevision today announced the planned launch of Optimum Select, an interactive advertising system that will supposedly reach 3 million digital TV subscribers by early October.

The New York-based MSO is starting off with an application that lets viewers request information on an advertised product when prompted by a digital overlay on the bottom half of the TV screen. It might be a "Select" button that leads to coupons or free samples, for instance. (See Cablevision Tees Up Interactive Ads.)

As one of the early Optimum Select advertisers, paint and finish company Benjamin Moore, will send a coupon for a free two-ounce color sample to Cablevision customers who hit the "Select" button during the spot.

Cablevision isn't saying much about the financial side all this, but it did confirm that advertisers will pay a premium for spots that carry interactivity -- the kind of boost MSOs are looking for during a prolonged soft environment for local ads. Advertisers, meanwhile, are looking to cable to give them the kind of ad targeting and measurement they can find via the Internet.

A Cablevision spokeswoman said Optiumum Select will be activated on about 25 channels in the early rollout phase. Less than 10 percent of the spots running on those networks are expected to carry an interactive component.

Early on, the interactive ad features will apply only to live, linear programming, meaning it won't be active on shows that are recorded to a DVR. Also, viewers can't stop the banners from appearing in the ads, though they will disappear from view in about 15 seconds.

The request for information (RFI) concept is becoming increasingly familiar among U.S. cable MSOs, though Cablevision appears to be furthest along with a version that will scale to millions of homes.

Canoe, which counts Cablevision, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , and Bright House Networks among its backers, intends to launch an RFI campaign in the fourth quarter of 2009 based on Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), a CableLabs -specified platform that can run on cable's entire universe of digital boxes. (See Canoe Preps ITV Ad 'Template' , Canoe Mothballs Targeted Ad Product , and Canoe Rows Toward Enhanced TV .)

Cablevision, however, is not relying on EBIF. The MSO isn't offering up much about the technical guts of Optiumum Select, but we are told that it's running on in-house technology that's optimized for Cablevision's two-way digital TV network.

RFI ads aren't the only item on Cablevision's interactive menu.

By the end of 2009, Cablevision expects to add Content Saving, which would let customers save a video-on-demand (VoD) asset (such as a movie trailer or a video recipe) in a personal folder accessible from the interactive program guide menu. Early next year, the MSO will also introduce Optimum Select Commerce, which will allow viewers to make purchases via the TV.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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