Cablevision Systems and its Rainbow Media programming division said they will offer interactive advertising products and applications to media buyers during this year's upfronts, apparently the first time ITV technology has been incorporated into the upfront selling process.
Agencies and advertisers purchasing upfront inventory from Rainbow's AMC, WE TV, Sundance Channel and IFC networks can now add interactive television applications on Cablevision's systems to their buys. Those enhanced spots would be viewable only by Cablevision's 2.8 million digital TV subscribers in the New York metro area.
Starting in the fourth quarter of 2009, Cablevision will be able to offer advertisers two interactive features -- dubbed Power :30 -- that add overlays to linear TV spots, Cablevision senior vice president of advanced platform sales Barry Frey said.
Telescoping will let a marketer show an overlay on a 30-second spot that triggers direct tune-in to the advertiser's dedicated video-on-demand channel, and "request for information" will allow viewers to generate a prepopulated on-screen RFI form that is sent back to the advertiser.
Cablevision already offers sponsored VOD showcases to marketers including Walt Disney resorts and Mattel, and will be able to offer the telescoping and RFI units later this year, Frey said. "We're starting conversations with advertisers now," he said.
As for how the Cablevision/Rainbow interactive offerings will fit into Canoe Ventures -- the joint venture Cablevision formed with the industry's five other biggest operators -- Frey said: "We fully support Canoe. But at the same time we are leading many efforts in this area."
Industry observers believe 2009 is the year interactive TV, after many false starts, will finally take hold in a large numbers. One big driver is that Canoe is pushing operators to standardize on CableLabs' Enhanced Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), which allows ITV applications to run across virtually any digital cable set-top in use.
Cablevision and Rainbow's enhanced-advertising features will be sold on "an agency-by-agency deal," Frey said. He added that none of the products will be sold on a per-click basis.
Cablevision has "no vision at the moment to offer these specific capabilities" to programmers other than the four Rainbow networks, he added.
The MSO is developing the RFI and telescoping interactive capabilities in-house, to run natively on Cisco's Scientific Atlanta set-top platform. Frey said Cablevision's interactive-advertising platform initially will not be based on EBIF, but eventually will migrate to comply with the specification.
In Cablevision's implementation, the RFI feature prepopulates a customer's name and address in an on-screen form and - with the subscriber's permission - is sent directly to the advertiser for fulfillment via postal mail. Viewers also can opt to have information e-mailed to them if they have provided their e-mail address.
In addition, Cablevision will offer a "click to call" feature, which lets a viewer request that a telemarketer call them at home within five minutes to provide more information.