Cable-Tec Expo: Interactive TV gets down to brass tacks

Tue, 06/24/2008 - 8:45am
Mike Robuck

Interactive TV (iTV) applications and services have had a few false labors with cable operators, but standards such as EBIF and tru2way are in the process of delivering wide-scale iTV deployments that cable operators can monetize.

During yesterday’s Paul Kagan conference, panelists from “The Time is Now: Designing Interactive TV Technology” discussed iTV’s stops and starts in the U.S., as well as its current prospects.

Moderator Kagan gave a brief run-through of iTV applications that dated back 30, 15 and 13 years, all of which eventually failed. When it comes to iTV, the cable industry suffered from a “recto-cranial inversion,” according to Kagan, but that malady has been cleared thanks to technologies such as tru2way.

Interactive TV, Kagan said, is about to have its big breakthrough.

In the morning keynote that preceded the “The Time is Now” panel, Basil Badawiyeh, Arris’ VP of on-demand strategy, said the framework for interactive applications, such as voting and polling or requests for more information, is already in place, but the cable industry needs to make sure that application developers are brought into the fold for true2way to be successful.

So Vang, CableLabs' VP of open cable, said that since tru2way, or the OpenCable Platform, is based upon the same JAVA APIs that are used by Europe’s Globally Executable Multimedia Home Platform and Blu-Ray, the commonality of the technology will allow it to be used on other platforms such as PC-to-TV applications, or even cell phones.

“The time is now (for tru2way),” Vang said. “For those not yet in engaged in tru2way, it’s not too late. This is the time to get engaged.”

While full-scale tru2way deployments are the end-game for applications and cable’s Canoe Ventures – formerly known as Project Canoe – advertising platform, EBIF is the answer in the near term because it can be deployed on the legacy-set top boxes, according to panelist Paul Woidke, OpenTV’s SVP and GM of advanced advertising.

“EBIF is the most important component of advertising,” Woidke said. “Advertisers want the largest number of eyeballs possible in ubiquitous networks.”

Woidke said the EBIF applications can be ported into tru2way once the latter is more widely deployed, but in the meantime EBIF gives advertisers and cable subscribers the opportunity to gain experience with iTV applications such as overlays for news, weather and sports information.

Arthur Orduna, Bright House Networks’ SVP of policy and product, said EBIF and tru2way will allow cable operators to legally gather data from set-top boxes, switched digital video (SDV) or high-speed data services in a uniform manner that “can generate revenue for everyone in this room.”

Orduna said Bright House Networks has made the necessary network investments to support OCAP and has deployed some leased tru2way set-top boxes, but the next step is getting EBIF clients into the legacy set-top boxes. Orduna said Bright House is currently working with other cable operators on getting EBIF into legacy set-top boxes, but he couldn’t say for sure when it will happen and what applications will be available to subscribers.

More Broadband Direct:

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