Canoe, CableLabs Outline First Ad Specs

Big cable operators this week plan to release their first crack at a technical blueprint that’s intended to serve as the common foundation for the industry’s next generation of TV advertising.

Canoe Ventures and CableLabs have drafted a reference architecture specification — Advanced Advertising 1.0 — which is made up of existing industry specifications and standards, along with a set of four new advertising-specific interfaces.

“From Canoe’s perspective, this is critical,” Canoe chief technology officer Arthur Orduna said in an interview. “The larger issue is, how do you work with the cable industry at large in this new advanced-advertising scenario?”

The reference architecture specification includes three areas (see box, right): two existing CableLabs cable specs, Enhanced Binary Interchange Format and VOD Metadata 2.0; two standards maintained by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers; and the four new EBIF-based interfaces.

“You put that all together and the core of this is providing guidance to the marketplace on what are the relevant specs and standards to target or incorporate into their products or programming to work with the MSOs on advanced advertising,” Orduna said.

The Advanced Advertising 1.0 spec was developed and will be maintained by a CableLabs working group composed of MSO, Canoe and CableLabs technical leads, with input from the a small group of vendors.

The four new ad-specific interfaces in Advanced Advertising 1.0 — which define campaign-tracking capabilities, cross-MSO messaging and other functions — are expected to be ready before the end of April, according to Don Dulchinos, CableLabs senior vice president of advanced platforms.

Each of the four specs has its own drafting group of between four and 10 people with three or four vendors in the mix. “What happens in drafting-group phase is we pick vendors based on prior expertise,” Dulchinos said.

Technology vendors already are broadly supporting certain key elements of the Advanced Ad 1.0 spec, such as EBIF and SCTE-130. For example, CableLabs last November hosted an interop event with 15 companies based on integration of the SCTE 130 standards with the CableLabs Enhanced TV/EBIF standards for interactive television and advertising.

In June, CableLabs expects to host an interop event geared around the Advanced Advertising 1.0 framework, Dulchinos said.

Canoe and CableLabs have set up a Web address — AdvancedAdvertising.TV — that will point to additional information about Advanced Advertising 1.0 as it becomes available.

Canoe, based in New York, was formed last year by the nation’s six biggest MSOs: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks.

Executives from Canoe’s founding companies weighed in with words of support.

“This specification is critical to ensuring a standard and efficient approach to building out advanced advertising capabilities for Comcast’s systems,” Comcast CTO Tony Werner said in a statement. “We will look for compliance with Advanced Advertising 1.0 as a key requirement for our advanced advertising vendors.”

“We support the Advanced Advertising 1.0 specification, as it answers the needs and reflects the input of many MSOs today, including Time Warner Cable,” said Mike Lajoie, CTO of Time Warner Cable. “Moving forward, this spec will help ensure a standards-based approach for all new revenue-generating advanced ad products, and will provide a solid foundation as we expand our roster of advanced advertising technology partners.”

Spec Sheet
The CableLabs/Canoe Advanced Advertising 1.0 framework comprises three areas: