American Cable to Get tCommerce by 2011

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Light Reading Cable, an industry site covering the US Cable TV Industry recently reported that a top executive at Canoe Ventures LLC said that tCommerce will likely be coming to US cable subscribers by 2011.

"It's not going to be at scale yet, but I would say 2011 is going to be a good year for testing, trialing, and probably seeing some big companies coming out of the e-commerce space and moving into the t-commerce space," Canoe CTO Arthur Orduna said here at an interactive advertising panel at the 24th annual National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) Conference.

Canoe is backed by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Charter Communications Inc. , Cox Communications Inc. , and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) - and it's the Cable industries' challenge to the plethora of new channels of convergent and interactive TV coming to market via CE manufacturers, IPTV and the likes of Google, Apple, Verizon FIOS, Boxee, Roku and many others.

"We've been noticing a lot more activity in the t-commerce space. It's definitely on our roadmap," Orduna told Light Reading Cable after the panel session.

The older EBIF standard being used over Tru2way as 90 percent of STBs support EBIF with fewer ready for the next generation Tru2way. Hence Canoe Ventures is initially focused upon EBIF.

The latter is open to developers via OpenCable's Tru2way platform. More from Light Reading Cable:

Earlier on the panel, Orduna said cable's Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) platform would enable t-commerce, allowing cable operators, programmers, and advertisers to create a "transactional screen" that a subscriber could navigate to buy a product. EBIF apps, by design, can run on cable's entire spectrum of digital set-tops.

"Whether it's direct response [advertising], or in the context of programming, or if it's improving the efficiencies of QVC and HSN… we can make the set-top box a transactional device," he added, noting that HSN is already using EBIF to enable t-commerce transactions on Comcast systems. (See HSN’s 'T-Commerce' App Gains Traction.)

...While cable operators and technology vendors have touted the potential of offering t-commerce to subscribers for more than a decade, the technology has seen limited deployments. Last year, Cablevision began allowing subscribers to receive product samples from advertisers by pressing a button on their remotes, and the MSO has said that it would begin offering t-commerce sometime this year. (See Cablevision Eyes T-Commerce Launch in 2010.)

And late last year, t-commerce vendor iCueTV Inc. said that Buckeye CableSystem , MetroCast Cablevision , Sunflower Broadband (soon to be part of Knology Inc. (Nasdaq: KNOL)), and some other relatively small cable operators, would begin selling DVDs, CDs, and other products through an application it developed with the Comcast Media Center (CMC) . (See Cablevision Eyes T-Commerce Launch in 2010 and Knology Plucks Sunflower.)

Kudos to Alan Quayle for the excellent breakdown below:

EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format) is designed for older / cheaper STBs with limited processing power and memory, such as the Motorola DCT-2000 set top. An ETV (Enhanced TV) user agent is downloaded to the STB. The ETV app is inserted into the digital TV bit stream (MPEG-2 transport stream) of the channel being watched, when the user agent receives the ETV application it decodes and display the clickable object on the TV screen. It enables polling, instant weather and traffic, and other simple point-and-click features - a bit like WAP-push (Wireless Application Protocol) just much more visually pleasing. Verizon FiOS users can experience this using the widget button on their remote to see local traffic and weather. EBIF is a subset of tru2way, so tru2way STBs will also run ETV applications.

Tru2way was formerly known as the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP), that's the last time I'm going to mention OCAP. Tru2way has a number of capabilities including allowing digital TVs to connect to cable without requiring a set-top box, just like those old unsuccessful cableCARDs. But of relevance in the comparison to the mobile industry is it provides a Java platform on the STB (Set Top Box) to run applications. Similar to the J2ME MIDP 2.0 (Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition Mobile Information Device Profile) specification on mobile phones, but with much more processing power and a standardized screen.



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