Canoe Launches Clickable 30-Second Ads With Comcast, TWC

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Canoe Ventures has begun delivering its first interactive TV ads across several million households in Comcast and Time Warner Cable markets -- with paying advertisers -- but the cable-backed company is staying mum on the details, including how many households are enabled to receive the spots.

The first Canoe request-for-information ads were introduced in Comcast and TWC markets because "those MSOs have been the most aggressive in deploying EBIF," Canoe chief marketing officer Vicki Lins said in an e-mail. "As the industry's EBIF footprint continues to grow, Canoe's ITV footprint grows, driving opportunities for new markets, new programming customers and new applications."

EBIF is the CableLabs Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format, which the industry is looking to rebrand as "SelecTV."

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Lins declined to identify which networks or advertisers are using the RFI capability, but she said Canoe introduced more than one interactive campaign this week. She added that one of the RFI overlays invites viewers to receive a free sample from "a major packaged goods company."

At the Multichannel News/B&C OnDemand Summit 2.0 earlier this month, James Manchester, Time Warner Cable New York regional president of network operations and engineering, said one of the first Canoe ads would let viewers click to order a free sample of chewing gum.

Canoe previously announced four initial partners for the interactive ads: Comcast Networks, Discovery Communications, NBC Universal and Cablevision Systems' Rainbow Media Holdings.

Canoe, formed in 2008 by the six largest U.S. cable operators, had been shooting to get the RFI deployed nationwide by the end of last year.

And while the idea has been to offer advertisers the benefit of reaching across all six member MSOs -- Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks -- evidently only the two biggest are ready to receive Canoe's EBIF ads at this point.

Still, Lins portrayed the initial RFI spots as a major achievement, noting it's the first time interoperable interactive TV ads have been placed across multiple national cable broadcast operations centers and multiple cable operators' footprints.

In addition, Canoe is providing the first advanced-advertising "order to cash" platform that gives cable network customers a single order and aggregated measurement, reporting and fulfillment service, Lins said.

On the operator front, Comcast has led the EBIF charge with more than 12 million homes enabled for the interactive spec in its Motorola markets. The MSO is aiming to turn up EBIF in 19 million homes total by the end of 2010 and Time Warner Cable is targeting 6 million homes.

Once a cable operator has deployed an EBIF user agent to set-top boxes in a given market, those boxes must then be verified as "Canoe-enabled," Lins said, meaning that they have the necessary bandwidth allocated for each channel that is delivering interactive spots and can deliver the necessary return-path data.

"All our partners are committed and we will continue to expand the footprint throughout this year and into next," she said.

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