Canoe Ventures Closes its Interactive TV Operations, Will Focus on VOD and TV Everywhere Advertising

--120 Employees Laid Off, Including CEO Timko, CPO Orduna, CMO Lins, GM of Interactive TV Bokor
--Joel Hassell Named CEO, Company Will Now Be Headquartered in Denver

Canoe Ventures, the interactive TV and advanced advertising company established in 2008 by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision and Bright House Networks, announced Wednesday that it is terminating its interactive TV advertising operations--a move that will see it closing its New York office (the closure is expected to take place by May 23rd), and laying off around 120 employees, including such high-profile executives as CEO Kathy Timko, chief product officer Arthur Orduna, chief marketing officer Vicki Lins, SVP of sales and distribution Jim Turner, and general manager of interactive TV solutions Jonathan Bokor. News of the development was first reported by Multichannel News's Todd Spangler. According to a Canoe spokesperson contacted by [itvt], the decision to pull the plug on the company's efforts to launch a national ITV advertising platform came after an extensive review process that involved "our board members, chief MSO stakeholders, Canoe management and other industry leaders."

Canoe will now have around 30 employees, will be headquartered in Denver (in its existing engineering facility), and will be led by newly appointed CEO Joel Hassell (formerly CTO). It will "focus on providing a platform for MSO's and national programmers to monetize on-demand content across multiple platforms--both video-on-demand inside the home, and TV Everywhere outside the home," according to a statement from the company. "Canoe plans to establish the market for dynamic ad insertion within cable's VOD platform first and then look to offering more robust reporting and data insights, to introducing addressable dynamic ad insertion and to support ad insertion across a wide variety of devices both inside and out of the home," the statement continues. "Canoe's owners and programmers are pursuing TV Everywhere with gusto and the industry needs a central national entity to make ad support easy for national advertisers." Chris Pizzurro, who last year was named Canoe's general manager of VOD solutions, heading up its efforts in dynamic VOD ad insertion, is expected to continue in that role. The Canoe spokesperson described the new, smaller Canoe as "an engineering-focused company" that will "concentrate on VOD and dynamic ad insertion, MSO integration and providing technology support for programmers."

Canoe's EBIF-based interactive TV advertising platform, which offered interactive TV RFI overlays, reached around 25 million cable households, and was available on AMC, Bravo, Discovery, E!, History, G4, Style and USA Network. However, although it appeared to show some promise, its footprint was apparently still too small to attract national advertisers. [itvt] asked the Canoe spokesperson what had driven the decision to terminate the company's ITV operations, in favor of its VOD monetization efforts. The parties involved in the review process "heard from the marketplace...that these significant opportunities for monetizing video-on-demand content demanded attention and carry tremendous value and opportunity," she said. "And, as you know, gaining traction with ITV requires a lot of heavy lifting and lot of intensive work on the part of everybody in the partnerships. All things considered, the balance of the decision came down to what made the most sense for Canoe: to shift direction and to remain incredibly focused on delivering value to the MSO's and to the programmers through the monetization of on-demand content across multiple platforms. I think it's more about pursuing that opportunity than abandoning the other one. I really think it became about realigning the company's resources, focusing efforts on the mission that the partners believed was a worthwhile pursuit and that they could support."

According to Canoe's new CEO, Joel Hassell, the cable industry continues to be interested in interactive TV, but its ITV efforts will be--as has been the case for some time now--local and driven by individual operators (such as Comcast and Cablevision, which have enjoyed a fair measure of success with ITV advertising in local markets): "Cable's ITV business will continue through the ad sales teams and video business units at the individual MSO's, as they pursue business opportunities with these capabilities within their own footprints," he wrote in a statement published on Canoe's Web site.

North America