'Project Canoe' Seeks a Captain

The cable industry is scouting for someone to steer its Project Canoe initiative, which is supposed to establish technical standards for placing interactive and addressable TV ads across multiple cable operators.

Canoe — the name is meant to suggest operators rowing together in the same direction — is being backed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, and Bright House Networks, with support from CableLabs.

The operators have enlisted search firm Spencer Stuart to find an executive to manage Canoe, first reported last week by The New York Times. The newspaper also said the operators are investing $150 million into the initiative.

The Times reported that the Canoe project included plans to form a “jointly owned company,” but a cable executive disputed that characterization.

The executive, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said the Canoe effort would not result in a full-blown joint venture similar to National Cable Communications, the spot-cable advertising firm jointly owned by Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable.

“It's more like an intercompany coalition than a JV,” this executive said.

The cable executive said the “CEO” will act as the point person to shepherd along the necessary standards and related business processes among all the operators.

“They need somebody to bring it all together,” the executive said.

Comcast president and chief operating officer Steve Burke, on the operator's earnings call last month, said his company would spend $50 million to $70 million on interactive advertising infrastructure in 2008.

“We're putting real money into our capital budget,” Burke told analysts.