Four Programmers To Shove Off With Canoe's Interactive Ads

Canoe Ventures has lined up four initial partners -- Comcast Networks, Discovery Communications, NBC Universal and Rainbow Media Holdings -- for the debut of the MSO-backed firm's interactive TV ads sometime in the next seven weeks.

Canoe's first interactive TV application, a request-for-information overlay for 30-second commercials that will let viewers request coupons, product samples or info through the mail, is scheduled to begin deploying later this quarter.

The four programmers represent the first official go-to-market partners for Canoe, formed in 2008 by the six biggest U.S. cable operators.

Canoe ran a trial of a zone-addressable service with Rainbow's AMC last year.  However, Canoe pulled the plug on that initial "Community Addressable Messaging" product for various business and technical reasons prior to launching it commercially.

"We hope to be a part of enhancing the television experience starting with the launch of truly national interactive TV, something we as an industry have been talking about for many years," Canoe CEO David Verklin said in a statement. "We are so proud to be associated with these visionary programming network partners who share our passion to make TV even better."

Canoe's template-driven RFI applications -- the first of what is promised to be a suite of interactive TV solutions -- will be delivered using CableLabs' Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format.

To date, Comcast has been the most aggressive in deploying EBIF across its footprint, standing at about 12.8 million homes. Other Canoe-member operators, including Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Cox Communications, are expecting to widen their EBIF support over the course of 2010. Cablevision has not announced details of its EBIF rollout plans.

Under Canoe's service-bureau-like model, programmers sell interactive or addressable advertising enhancements on top of their existing inventory, and Canoe takes a cut of the transaction. In addition, Canoe will provide reporting services back to programmer partners about the performance of campaigns as well as link to third-party fulfillment houses. The company also offers sales support, application testing, and sales and order management integration.

Three of the four programming partners offered optimistic appraisals of Canoe's capabilities.

"We are excited to offer marketers advanced ITV capabilities on top of our valuable inventory," Dave Cassaro, Comcast Networks president of ad sales, said in a statement. "We recognize that advertisers and viewers want more from TV - the simple and seamless interactivity enabled by Canoe's ITV solution is a big step forward in TV's evolution."

"Cablevision has been a leader in the development and deployment of interactive advertising in the New York metropolitan area, and we have already seen the benefits of this advanced technology," Rainbow president of national ad sales Arlene Manos said. "We look forward to working with Canoe to incorporate interactivity into advertising on Rainbow's networks across the country, enhancing viewer engagement and results."

"Our goal is to provide our clients with the most effective advertising environment possible," said Mike Pilot, President, Sales and Marketing, NBCU. "Canoe's ITV solution is an important step in providing the targeted and interactive ad solutions our clients are looking for, as we work together to create even greater connections between their brands and our viewers."

Last week, a Canoe-led consortium of cable organizations and companies announced a consumer-awareness campaign to brand EBIF interactive features as "SelecTV."  The name and logo were created by brand-consulting firm Siegel & Gale, which also came up with "tru2way."

Over the last 18 months, Canoe has been working to standardize the process of placing nationwide advanced advertising campaigns, and performing integration and testing with the member cable operator companies.

Canoe, based in New York, recently moved to bigger offices at 1251 Avenue of the Americas. 

The company is owned by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks.