Ensequence, the New York-based interactive TV specialist, is preparing to roll out an interactive advertising system designed to suit not just cable operators, but satellite and telco TV providers as well as connected “smart” TVs.
Ensequence’s mission with that product, called AdConneqt+, is to establish a national, “distributor-agnostic” system that supports old-style cable ITV technology as well as newer, Internet protocol-capable video platforms.
With AdConneqt+, Ensequence will essentially serve as a middleman of sorts between distributors and programmers, offering simplified terms that layer an interactive premium on top of traditional 30-second TV advertisements. This interactive, highly-measurable advertising “upgrade” will enable viewers, for example, to press a button on the remote to request a coupon, a product sample or another form of additional information associated with the live TV spot.
If you think that sounds a lot like the request-for-information (RFI) system originally deployed and later shut down by cable-backed advanced advertising joint venture Canoe, you wouldn’t be wrong.
Ensequence played a key role in developing Canoe’s RFI system, which relied on Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), a technology that allows interactive applications to run all generations of cable boxes. Ensequence is resurrecting that work in AdConneqt+, but also adding components and features that will also enable the system to operate on a broader array of standards-based platforms and proprietary interactive advertising systems used by various pay TV operators. AdConneqt+ is also rooted by audio content recognition (ACR), a technology that detects the ads automatically and stitches the interactive component on the fl y. ASCR is increasingly being used in smart TVs and other IP-connected devices.
“We are creating a nationwide platform for interactive advertising,” Ensequence CEO Peter Low said.
Ensequence’s broader approach to interactive advertising has a better chance of success than Canoe’s initial proprietary, cable-only focus, Tim Hanlon, the founder and CEO of The Vertere Group, an investment advisory and strategic consulting firm, said.
“One of the knocks against Canoe was its constant battle against scale. Addressing the scale issue is something that gives Ensequence a better shot at now,” Hanlon said, noting that the ability to bring interactivity to ads remains “broadly appealing to national advertisers.”
Ensequence, he said, would be well positioned if it is truly agnostic and comes out of the chute with deals tied to each major distribution “tent pole” — cable, telco, satellite, and over-the-top. He said the challenge will be how AdConneqt+ is implemented and if it can “harmonize well across different TV environments.”
“I know the advertising community will really grasp onto this and make their investment in television advertising just that more powerful,” Ensequence chief operating officer David Kline, who joined the vendor this summer after serving as the president and chief operating officer of Cablevision Media Sales, said.
Kline said the fixed premium/upcharge model for AdConneqt+ will make interactive advertising a simpler proposition for distributors and programmers in part because Ensequence takes care of the technical heavy lifting, allowing its partners to stay focused on linear advertising sales. In the past, operators and programmers faced a more complex mix of fixed and variable costs on top of lead-based fees.
Ensequence plans to launch AdConneqt+ commercially in the first quarter of 2014 with an initial group of partners to be revealed later this year. It predicts the ad product will start with a reach of 20 million interactive TV homes, and expand to 30 million to 40 million by the end of 2014. That’s enough, the company believes, to gain the attention of national advertisers.
Ensequence’s current crop of customers includes NBCUniversal, Viacom, CBS, Disney Channel, ESPN, Showtime, Turner Broadcasting System, HBO, QVC, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Dish Network, CBS, Starz, The Walt Disney Co., Cablevision Systems, DirecTV and Verizon Communications, among others. LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony are among Ensequence’s announced smart TV partners.
AdConneqt+ will bring technology developed for Canoe’s cable ITV joint venture to satellite and telco providers as well as “smart TVs.”