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Comcast: ITV for 50 Nets

New York — Comcast is taking
interactive TV even bigger
later this year, whether or not
Canoe Ventures is seaworthy
anytime soon.

The cable operator aims to have
the ability to deliver interactive
TV applications from as many as
50 networks in the second half of
2010 across more than 12 million
households, said Comcast senior
vice president of video development
Todd Walker.

Moreover, according to Walker,
Canoe — the advanced-advertising
joint venture of the U.S.’s six biggest
MSOs — is in the process of
figuring out how to extend interactive
capabilities to broadcast

“Canoe is meeting with the
broadcast networks. We have to
figure it out for this to be successful,”
said Walker, speaking at an
interactive-TV event held by the
New York chapter of the Cable &
Telecommunications Association
for Marketing.

Canoe is expecting to launch a
request for information advertising
service nationwide in the second
quarter of 2010 in conjunction
with one cable network.

Initially, though, Comcast and
other cable operators will be focused
on enabling ITV applications
with cable programmers.

HSN is Comcast’s charter network
partner for ITV. The channel’s
Shop by Remote is currently
available to 12 million Comcast
subscribers and the application
— which lets viewers buy the current
item being offered for sale —
has a 10% sales-conversion rate,
Walker said. With the HSN Shop
by Remote app on Comcast, the
shopping channel also has signed
up 1,200 new subscribers who
had never bought anything from
it before.

To date, Comcast has deployed
user agents for CableLabs’ Enhanced
TV Binary Interchange Format
to 19 million Motorola set-top
boxes. That represents about 85% of
the cable operator’s Motorola footprint,
and Comcast is shooting to
get all Motorola set-tops enabled
by midyear, Walker said.

In the back half of 2010, Comcast’s
goal is to “enable 50 networks
to deploy interactivity
when they choose to do so,” Walker
said. To get there, Comcast will
be engaged in “pipe cleaning” reengineering
processes, to be able
to accommodate the additional
bandwidth needs of EBIF apps.

“We just don’t have the bandwidth
to deploy a lot of different
applications,” Walker said.

In another phase of Comcast’s
EBIF rollout, the MSO is working
with ITV development firm Itaas
to port the EBIF user agent to Cisco
Systems set-tops. That agent
should be ready to deploy by late
2010 or early 2011, Walker said.