Who's Rowing 'Project Canoe'?

The U.S. cable industry is still keeping details about "Project Canoe," the clandestine, cross-MSO, advanced (read: interactive and targeted) advertising initiative, relatively close to the vest, but now we've got word about which MSOs are on board.

According to a story in Monday's New York Times, the following operators are officially backing the project with greenbacks: Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , and Bright House Networks .

Those cable operators, the six largest in the U.S., serve north of 48 million, and that's clearly enough to give a project of this kind enough scale to actually mean something. But only one in the group, Comcast, has disclosed how much capital it has set aside to build out its advanced advertising infrastructure: between $50 million to $70 million. (See Up the River Without a Paddle .) According to the paper, the MSOs involved in Project Canoe initially will kick in a collective $150 million.

Although Time Warner Cable COO Landel Hobbs and Comcast COO Steve Burke have been spearheading the project, the paper noted that the operators have hired a recruitment firm to find someone to serve as the project's chief exec.

And getting this many of the majors involved is a good indication that the initiative has made some headway. Next we'll hopefully hear which vendors (likely a mix of traditional cable hardware and software suppliers and integration specialists) have been selected to create Project Canoe's technical blueprint. Recall that the deadline for the CableLabs RFI on the project came and went last fall. (See Cable's 'Canoe' RFI Paddles Toward Deadline.) Some cable vendors have even suggested that they've made the short list. (See Oar in the Water? )

But as far as the MSOs are concerned, the sooner they can get Project Canoe launched and out to sea, the better. Cable, newspapers, and TV broadcasters are seeing ad dollars leave them for the more targeted and measurable world of the Internet at a rate of $5 million a day. (See Plugging the Ad Drain.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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