The Difference Between "EBIF-Ready" and "Canoe-Ready"

Here’s something worth knowing, if you’re following the body of work that is interactive advertising on the TV: Thre’s a difference between being “EBIF-ready” and being “Canoe-ready.”Refresher: EBIF (Enhanced Binary Interchange Format) is the technical name for sending a clickable thing within an ad or a TV show, maybe to offer more information about a product (Canoe’s game), or maybe to participate in the outcome of a show, by clicking to vote someone gone.

(Canoe, for the uninitiated, is a cable MSO consortium tasked with making it possible for an advertiser to “buy cable,” as opposed to

buying time on Cablevision Systems to reach the tri-state area, Time Warner Cable for Manhattan, and Comcast for Philadelphia, and so on.)

The Big Thing about EBIF is its reach: Ultimately, to nearly 100% of the fielded base of digital cable set-tops. This year, best guess,

about 25 million U.S. homes will be outfitted to receive interactive TV ads, maybe more, on roughly 40 million total TV screens (figuring 1.6 set-tops per home, which was the rule of thumb last time I checked.)

Step one involves getting “EBIF-ready.” If you’re a cable operator, this starts with picking a User Agent (UA) provider. There are seven or so choices. Then, taking a shot at bandwidth implications (it involves packet ID size and campaign breadth, per network, but probably around 150 kbps). It’s also about gathering interactive session data into some kind of EBI aggregation server.

Step two is the “Canoe-ready” part, which adds the spit and polish that is end-to-end testing between operators and program networks. Think about how much gear sits between a programmer’s master control center, and your house. Hint: A lot. The trick is to not drop the EBIF trigger along the way.

Getting “Canoe-ready” also introduces the use of a template to get the clickable thing formatted for the screen. And, putting in the

mechanisms necessary to make sure fulfillment happens (e.g., you get the coupon.)

Lastly, “Canoe-ready” means that trigger inserters get installed into the broadcast centers of national programmers, and that traffic

schedules have a way to bet built for interactive-enabling ads and shows.

That’s a somewhat breezy interpretation of the two-step that is EBIF and Canoe-readiness, guaranteed to generate a giant eye-roll from an engineer whose job it is to make everything work: As with most things in video engineering, there are dozens of other associated steps.)

Nonetheless, and as this column has pointed out before: Time to get your EBIF on.

No really. As easy as it is to kvetch about the pace of interactive TV anything, it’s probably time to re-shelve the sarcasm and get the sleeves rolled up (again).  To fix the problem, not the blame, as my grandfather used to say, requires (more) actual work.

Step one, step two. EBIF, Canoe.