CMC Exec: Don’t Get Greedy With Interactive Ads

Cable operators and programmers shouldn’t use interactive TV technology to flood subscribers with too much unsolicited advertising, a Comcast Media Center (CMC) executive warned Wednesday.

“Don’t get greedy,” CMC director of products and services Homer Gonzalez said during a Webinar Light Reading Cable hosted on cable ITV deployments. Noting that the industry risks turning subscribers off from using ITV, Gonzalez said cable networks should focus on interactive apps that create more value for a subscriber, such as Comcast's own "t-commerce," social networking, or applications that allow viewers to get more information about the programs they’re watching. (See Tier 2 MSOs Tee Up 'T-Commerce' .)

“What we want to avoid is for the engagement with the viewer to become nothing more than spam,” Gonzalez said. “It shouldn’t just be an unsolicited advertisement because they saw the ITV trigger. If it only becomes about advertising, with no value, then people stop using it.”

The CMC executive cited the HSN Shop By Remote ITV service that is available on systems owned by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and other MSOs as a good example of an app that provides value to subscribers, who can buy products with the click of a remote control. HSN Inc. claims it has seen the amount of time it takes to fulfill an order decrease “three to four times” for subscribers using the ITV app compared to consumers who use its toll-free phone number to place orders. (See HSN’s 'T-Commerce' App Gains Traction.)

Gonzalez said there will be up to 30 million Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) households capable of receiving interactive programming featuring the industry’s new SelecTV brand. Comcast, which currently counts 12.8 million EBIF-enabled homes, is targeting expansion to 19 million EBIF homes by the end of 2010, he said. (See Cable Picks 'SelecTV' as ITV Brand.)

Time Warner Cable expects to count 6.5 million EBIF-ready homes by the end of the year, while Charter Communications Inc. should have 1.6 million, he added.

There was a “groundswell” of interactive TV activity from major programmers at The Cable Show last month in Los Angeles. Gonzalez said that several networks have created EBIF-based apps, including HSN, CNN, NBC, ABC, ESPN, Style Network, AMC, E!, Discovery Channel, A&E, and Univision.

Gonzalez said it has become much easier for networks to add interactivity to their programming thanks to templates created by ITV vendors, including those available via CMC’s centralized HITS Advanced Services (AxIS) platform. (See HITS Offers ETV Solution and CMC Plays Host to iTV.)

“The more compelling applications and templates are largely out there. Because those templates already exist, a lot of the costs are offset by some of the investments being made already.”

While it is now easier for networks to add interactivity to more programming, Gonzalez emphasized that the industry should focus first on creating simple interactive TV applications. He noted how when consumers first began using the Internet, Web surfers focused on using email before evolving to more advanced services like online banking.

“There is conditioning and a learning curve that we need to respect,” Gonzalez concluded. “We need to be respectful of that, as it will reap benefits for all of us.”

— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:31:57 PM
re: CMC Exec: Don’t Get Greedy With Interactive Ads

"Don't spam people."  Yeah, I'd have to agree with that.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:31:54 PM
re: CMC Exec: Don’t Get Greedy With Interactive Ads

Or, in the case of interactive ads, spam to a level that people will tolerate. JB

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