Canoe Rows Toward Enhanced TV

SAN FRANCISCO -- TV of Tomorrow 2009 -- Canoe Ventures LLC , the cross-MSO advanced advertising joint venture, expects to launch a national enhanced television campaign in the second half of this year that enables viewers to request more information about a product with the click of a remote control.

That's according to Arthur Orduna, the chief technology officer of Canoe, a venture backed by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Charter Communications Inc. , Cox Communications Inc. , and Bright House Networks . (See Canoe Ventures: What It Is, What It Ain't , Canoe Ventures Paddles Ahead, and Verklin Picked as Cable's Canoe Captain.)

The campaign itself will run on Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), a CableLabs -specified platform that allows some simple interactive applications to run on cable's entire universe of digital cable set-top boxes, and not just the newer, more powerful tru2way models. (See Comcast, TWC Plan for EBIF and TV Apps Teams Face Cable Conundrum.)

Initially, Canoe and its MSO and programming partners will deploy a request for information (RFI) application that pops up during applicable 30-second spots.

The hope is that the added measurability and interactivity will beef up the value of those spots, though Orduna wouldn't say how much more advertisers might be willing to pay for the EBIF component. Depending on its success, EBIF could help boost a flagging cable advertising market that's losing dollars to the more targeted and measurable world of Internet advertising.

To help get the EBIF project off the ground and achieve a degree of scale early on, Canoe will supply uniform "templates" to an initial set of programmers and networks, yet to be disclosed. Canoe has already developed an EBIF template for voting and polling, and a version for the RFI app is underway.

Canoe is also considering applications for "telescoping," a technique that pulls up a long-form ad from the video-on-demand system or from some other location if the viewer triggers the request.

Addressable ads first
The initial EBIF project will follow Canoe's first product, which will emerge in the first half of this year and center on more targeted, addressable ads that rely on traditional ad zones and demographic data from a third party, starting with household income levels.

In that "community addressable messaging" approach, Canoe will tap into the existing 2,400 to 2,600 ad zones, which are already sold to advertisers and their agencies on a geographic basis. With household income levels added in, this should enable a car maker, for example, to deliver an ad for a premium vehicle to more affluent regions and send the default ad everywhere else.

For that launch, Canoe won't be collecting set-top data, but the plan is to eventually collect and analyze that viewing information from participating MSOs. "For now, we're keeping it very simple," Orduna said.

Later on, Canoe would like to offer advertisers the ability to build in even more advertising "variants."

"That's part of the roadmap of what we want to do," Orduna said. "But that will introduce some new complexities."

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