Interactive TV: The Loch Ness Monster Appears

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Los Angeles — We’ve heard about interactive TV for years but many cable viewers have never seen it — like that famously slippery Scottish swamp monster.

This year, though, “the Loch Ness Monster is finally coming out of the water,” said Mark Hess, Comcast’s senior vice president of advanced business and technology development, said when I bumped into him in the hallway this morning at the Cable Show.

Comcast at this point has deployed Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) user agents to Motorola set-tops in 12.8 million homes, according to Hess.

And now, the MSO has completed development on an EBIF user agent for Cisco boxes — which means all 18.8 million of Comcast’s digital video subscribers in 2010 are likely to be equipped to view interactive ads and use other IT apps (see Comcast, Itaas Port EBIF Agent To Cisco Boxes). Comcast has previously said it’s shooting to have EBIF capability ready for 50 networks in the second half of 2010 (see Comcast: ITV Ready For 50 Networks Later This Year).

Oops, but we need to stop calling it EBIF.

The new name: SelecTV (see Cable Gives Interactive TV Consumer-Friendly Name: SelecTV). With critical mass in sight, the cable industry felt it necessary to pay a naming consultant to come up with a snappy moniker for interactive TV. (The guys at Light Reading have already pointed out that “SelecTV” is the name of a discount satellite TV service in Australia.)

Whatever you call it, interactive cable TV is just about ready to meet the teeming masses.

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