EBIF in the Wake Of Canoe Shakeup

3/19/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

dramatic resizing of Canoe Ventures,
one question keeps coming
up, over and over (and over).
It is this: In a world with a much
smaller Canoe, what happens to
EBIF? Is it — gasp — dead?

Since EBIF was invented in
2005 as a way to shoehorn more
interactivity into legacy (read: older)
digital set-tops, this column
has drilled into it 26 times.

And this is unlikely to be the last one. That’s despite
oddly fervent whispers in pockets of the interactive-
TV community that the “Enhanced TV Binary
Interchange Format” is on its last legs. Pushing up
daisies. Feeding the fishes. (OK, I’ll stop.)

Here are five reasons why that just doesn’t
make sense:

1) It’s a proven way to bridge over to the IP
world of connected devices. Changing channels
using the iPad, being reminded to record or switch
channels when a favorite show is about to air,
seeing the phone number of an incoming phone
call on the TV screen — all are in-the-fi eld examples
of how EBIF is helping operators to do new
stuff on older boxes.

2) Thirty million households is still 30 million
households. That’s the U.S. count for homes set
up to receive EBIF-enabled interactivity. It continues
to grow. In other words, just because Canoe’s
MSO parents resized the effort, they’re still building
out with EBIF themselves.

3) Deterministic signaling still matters, as
a way to synchronize interactive elements with
video content (ads and shows). “Deterministic,”
in an EBIF sense, means “behaves predictably.”
If there are five interactive events in a show, and
trigger No. 1 hits at four minutes in, it plays out
at four minutes in. Not before, not after. When

4) The “pipe-cleaning” efforts worked. Cable
operators spent the last three years “pipe-cleaning”
their EBIF plant, to make sure an interactive
trigger inserted, say, at an uplink in L.A., would arrive
intact inside a set-top in Anytown — no matter
how many hops were in between.

5) It’s a standard. Another trend swirling
around EBIF is the comparison of it with other
interactive-signaling techniques, like ACR (Automatic
Content Recognition). Despite the impressive
momentum in the ACR category, it remains
riddled by its own fragmentation. Multiple vendor
participants, no agreed-upon standard. EBIF, by
contrast, uses a standardized signaling format
(advanced class: EISS, for ETV Interactive Signal
Stream, within MPEG-2 transport streams).

For these reasons, I’ll put a dollar on EBIF not
being dead. And you?

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