Canoe Ventures Suspends Plans to Launch its Community Addressable Messaging Product

--Will Instead Focus its Efforts on EBIF-Based Interactive TV Advertising

Canoe Ventures--the company that is tasked with implementing Project Canoe, the US cable industry's initiative to create a national unified platform for interactive and addressable advertising (it is backed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision and Bright House)--has suspended its plans to launch what was to be its first product, the Community Addressable Messaging (CAM) system, according to a report Thursday by Todd Spangler in the US cable-industry trade publication, Multichannel News. "At some point you have to decide, 'Is that dog going to hunt?'" Canoe Ventures CEO, David Verklin, stated in an interview with Spangler. "We were trying to use 20th-century technology to enable a 21st-century advanced-advertising product."

The CAM system would have allowed advertisers to run a different spot in 370 high-income cable zones from among the approximately 2,500 cable zones in the US (a default spot would have run in all the other zones); however, according to Spangler's report, the project was hampered by "the inflexible scheduling requirements of local cable advertising systems, coupled with shortcomings of operators' existing ad-insertion infrastructure." In order for the system to work, spots would have had to be booked 11 days prior to their air date; insertion could only take place after the local break; and an undetermined number of legacy Motorola set-top boxes would have needed to be upgraded in order to properly display alternate spots in the individual cable zones, Verklin told Spangler. Verklin also stated that Canoe would attempt to relaunch CAM at a later stage, but was unwilling to provide a timeline for the relaunch.

[itvt] contacted Canoe Ventures for comment, and received the following statement from a company spokesperson by email: "I can confirm for you that Canoe Ventures has decided to discontinue testing and suspend the launch of CAM (Community Addressable Messaging--Canoe's early-stage addressable ad product) after one of the largest advanced advertising trials in the history of cable. This decision was made after extensive testing with networks and cable operators identified operational dependencies found to limit the current product's commercial viability. But testing has proven that addressability is, in fact, a valuable advanced advertising capability for the television platform. So Canoe is taking the extensive set of lessons learned during the testing of CAM's early iteration and focusing resources on building future, more flexible iterations of CAM--and our ultimate goal of more advanced addressable advertising products that best serve the industry as a whole. We remain on track to launch an interactive, lead-generation advertising product in Q4 2009."

The interactive TV advertising product mentioned by the spokesperson is a "request-for-information" (RFI) app that would allow viewers to press a button on their remote in order to have a coupon, a brochure or other product information sent to them by regular mail. The app will be based on the Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), a CableLabs-backed specification that is designed to enable interactive TV applications to run on the low-resource legacy set-top boxes that have been widely deployed by US cable operators. The prospects for the national cable interactive TV advertising platform envisioned by Canoe Ventures should be improved by a new version of EBIF, dubbed IO5, that is currently in development and that is slated to address the fact that there are currently several different types of EBIF user agents in the market that are not completely compatible with one another (note: for more on IO5, see Ensequence chief product officer Aslam Khader's explanation of why EBIF and other standards often fall short of their "write once, publish anywhere" promise, in the June 4th edition of [itvt]'s new column, "The iTV Doctor Is In!; and also see Jeff Baumgartner's recent article in Cable Digital News:

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