CableLabs, Canoe Push EBIF Spec Forward

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CableLabs and Canoe Ventures announced they have completed work on the next Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format specification, version I06, which adds new capabilities for interactive TV applications and advertising.

Key additions to EBIF I06 include support for "unbound" apps, which are those that aren't associated with a particular program like caller ID on TV; support for DVR applications; and the ability to deliver different ads to a viewer based on data stored in a set-top.

CableLabs said it expects to provide more information about the EBIF I06 spec (the "i" stands for "issued") by Feb. 26.

Canoe -- the advanced advertising consortium owned by the six largest U.S. cable operators -- plans to use EBIF to provide the foundation for its first commercial product, a request for information (RFI) service scheduled to launch this spring.

"The original EBIF specification, which was tightly focused on just enhancing linear broadcast programming with simple interactivity, has now been expanded to take advantage of more advanced cable platform capabilities," Don Dulchinos, CableLabs senior vice president of advanced platforms, said in a statement. "This creates more opportunities for MSOs, Canoe, content owners and advertisers to develop compelling bound and unbound interactive applications for both national and local audiences."

CableLabs and Canoe made the announcement in conjunction with the CableLabs Winter Conference in Denver, where they are holding various EBIF sessions and demonstrations. They also have launched a new EBIF resource Web site, www.ebif.tv, as part of efforts to increase programmer and advertiser commitment to launching EBIF-based interactive content with Canoe and its founding cable operators.

The support in EBIF I06 for addressability allows an EBIF application to make decisions based on set-top-resident data; for example, that would allow an operator to deliver different ads to different demographic groups. On the DVR front, the revised spec lets an EBIF app set recordings or reminders via an interactive program guide, and adds the ability for an EBIF application to determine if the viewer is watching live or time-shifted programming.

Other additions to I06 include support for animation features, new audio resources, selector widget enhancements, application permissions and resource management for "well-behaved" applications.

Arthur Orduna

"We are very pleased to see this latest version of the EBIF specification completed and released to the MSOs, Canoe and the rest of the industry," Canoe chief technology officer Arthur Orduña said in a statement. "I06 adds critical functionality that enriches the value and revenue-generating potential of both bound and unbound ITV applications. This is a significant step in helping us meet our goal of enabling national enhanced and interactive advertising for MSOs, programmers, agencies and advertisers."

EBIF is designed to let even low-powered set-top boxes run ITV apps. The spec a subset of CableLabs' OpenCable Application Platform specification, and EBIF-compliant advertising and programming applications can run on OCAP-based devices enabled with an EBIF user agent.

Canoe was formed in 2008 by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision Systems, Cox Communications, Charter Communications and Bright House Networks. Five of the six (with the exception of Cablevision) provided statements of support for the latest EBIF development.

"This new release of the EBIF specification is critical to ensuring a continuously expanding and valuable range of interactive television offerings across Comcast's systems," Comcast Cable CTO Tony Werner said in a statement. "We will ensure that our nationwide rollout of EBIF capabilities will comply with EBIF I06, in order to assure our digital television subscribers will receive the latest features."

Time Warner Cable CTO Mike LaJoie commented, "We strongly support the EBIF standard, and have been awaiting the creation of EBIF I06, which was developed to meet the market needs of Time Warner Cable and other MSOs. The rollout of EBIF is a priority for us in 2010, and this latest round of the specification will lead to even more engaging viewing experiences for our customers."

"Bright House Networks has always been a strong supporter of technical standards in order to realize new services and technologies at scale," said Bright House president Nomi Bergman. "We therefore applaud the continuing evolution of the EBIF standard, which is enabling the cable industry to uniformly offer valuable new enhanced programming and services across our entire digital television footprint."

Charter CTO Marwan Fawaz added: "EBIF is critical for enabling truly ubiquitous nationwide ITV, and the new I06 specification gives developers and operators even more opportunities to bring even more innovative services to consumers. We are firm believers in the value of enhanced television services, and Charter is a strong supporter of the EBIF standard, which we plan to deploy across our markets."

And Cox CTO Scott Hatfield said: "Cox continues to work with CableLabs, Canoe and our fellow MSOs on developing critical new technical standards, and was pleased to contribute to the completion of EBIF I06. We are also committed to the launch of EBIF across our systems, and anticipate that the additional capabilities afforded by I06 will enable enhanced television applications to take advantage of other winning elements of our Cox digital video systems in an integrated manner."

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