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Cable Show 2009: Alcatel-Lucent Interacts With Cable

Complete Cable Show 2009 coverage from Multichannel News

Alcatel-Lucent, with a telco heritage that stretches back decades, is now turning its eyes to cable's interactive TV technologies.

This week, the Paris-based company is announcing that its Interactive Media Manager  -- a set of tools that provides application design, service creation and ongoing management for interactive services -- now supports CableLabs's two main ITV specifications, Enhanced Binary Interchange Format and tru2way.

"We're really addressing the cable market now," said Mark Janes, vice president of digital media and advertising in Alcatel-Lucent's Applications Software Group. "We are perceived as understanding the IPTV sector, but not so much the cable sector."

According to Janes, Alcatel-Lucent will be able to provide cable programmers, advertisers and MSOs Web-based ITV templates to quickly design, build and test EBIF and tru2way applications. He said the company is working within the guidelines set forth by Canoe Ventures -- the advanced-ad company established by the six biggest U.S. cable operators -- and CableLabs.

The aim: to reduce the months-long development and deployment lifecycle for interactive services to days.

"The time to market [for interactive TV applications] is pretty horrendous, and it's affecting the ability of the cable industry to get economies of scale and get some traction," Janes said.

Alcatel-Lucent obtained the IMM suite with the September 2007 acquisition of Tamblin, a 13-employee interactive-TV advertising software provider. London-based Tamblin had sold software to media companies including BBC, BskyB and Disney Channel UK for developing interactive advertising campaigns running across multiple operators.

Janes said Alcatel-Lucent is working with Turner Broadcasting System, which has commissioned the vendor to build templates for interactive advertising across the world.

"This does not conflict with Canoe," he said. Rather, "it's more about how they bundle interactivity alongside their programming."

Another key part of Alcatel-Lucent's pitch is that "we're totally agnostic to supply chain," Janes said, with the ability to run ITV applications on Microsoft IPTV middleware, EBIF, tru2way and other platforms.

"We're able to reach out and connect to a much fuller campaign," Janes said. "We can enable brands that want to reach out to cable, satellite and IPTV."

Along those lines, Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs is looking to extend interactive TV features to mobile and landline phones, as well.

For example, Janes said, the company has developed a prototype of a tru2way-based application that lets a viewer request a call-back from a telemarketing call center in response to an interactive ad. Another lets a consumer enter his or her mobile phone to receive more information.