AMC Testing Canoe's Creative-Versioning Ads

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Rainbow Media's AMC is among the first cable networks kicking the tires on a service from Canoe Ventures - the venture formed by the U.S.'s six biggest cable operators - that will deliver different advertising spots to viewers based on the income level of their geographic area.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts broke the news at the Sanford Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York, as he was discussing the industry's opportunities to increase its share of advertising pie.

The "holy grail" for cable's advertising ambitions is household-level addressability, Roberts said. But until that capability is technically feasible, the MSOs will work together to let programmers deliver different ad versions to cable system zones based on demographic profiles, he continued.

"That's what AMC and I think another couple other networks are doing with this first product, creative versioning, coming out of Canoe," he said.

The service, dubbed Community Addressable Messaging, will initially segment spots based on average household income in different zones. In the initial launch, advertisers will be able to target one spot to 18 million homes in 370 cable system zones where the household income tops $100,000. The default national ad will play out to another 42 million cable homes in the approximately 2,500 remaining zones.

Rainbow Media vice president of corporate communications Georgia Juvelis confirmed that AMC is testing CAM, but declined to provide any additional info.

Canoe had hoped to commercially launch CAM in May. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal this week, it has taken Canoe longer than expected to work out technical differences among different cable systems, such as getting the CAM triggers to work with different set-top box models.

Canoe spokeswoman Dana Runnells declined to say when CAM will launch or comment on the Journal report. "Nothing more to add until trials are complete," she wrote in an e-mail.

Cable operators don't expect any significant dollars out of Canoe for at least the next year. In 2009 or 2010 "it's not going to change anything that radically," Roberts said at the Sanford Bernstein conference. "But you have to try a bunch of different strategies."