Today at the CableLabs Winter Conference in Denver, CableLabs and Canoe Ventures announced the completion of a retooled EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format) specification.
The new EBIF IO6 specification was designed to meet competitive interactive TV market requirements and will widen the range of EBIF-enhanced programming, advertising and applications.
While cable operators work their way toward tru2way, EBIF allows operators the ability to deploy interactive features and services on digital set-top boxes that are already in homes.
“EBIF IO6, driven and completed by the CableLabs EBIF Working Group, marks a significant passage in the evolution of enhanced television technology,” said Don Dulchinos, senior vice president of advanced platforms for CableLabs. “The original EBIF specification, which was tightly focused on just enhancing linear broadcast programming with simple interactivity, has now been expanded to take advantage of more advanced cable platform capabilities. This creates more opportunities for MSOs, Canoe, content owners and advertisers to develop compelling bound and unbound interactive applications for both national and local audiences.”
While interactive TV has languished for quite some time, 2010 could very well be the year that EBIF takes off. Currently, Comcast has an HSN Shop by Remote EBIF application deployed in 8 million homes, while Canoe Ventures is expected to launch an EBIF-based service sometime this spring before scaling it nationally by year’s end.
EBIF IO6’s key additions and features are:
- Support for “unbound” applications, such as TV widgets that enable Caller ID on TV and sports/news tickers, as well as new customer service and guide extension applications
- Support for time-shifted applications, such as the ability to set recording/reminders via the MSO Guide and the ability for an EBIF application to understand if the viewer is watching live or time-shifted programming
- Support for addressability based on customer or device data stored in the set-top box, which allows an EBIF application to make decisions and alter its behavior based on that data so it can deliver different ads to different demographic groups while preserving customers’ privacy
- Other IO6 additions include support for animation features, new audio resources, selector widget enhancements, application permissions and resource management for well-behaved applications.
“We are very pleased to see this latest version of the EBIF specification completed and released to the MSOs, Canoe and the rest of the industry,” said Canoe Ventures CTO Arthur Orduña. “IO6 adds critical functionality that enriches the value and revenue-generating potential of both bound and unbound iTV applications. This is a significant step in helping us meet our goal of enabling national enhanced and interactive advertising for MSOs, programmers, agencies and advertisers.”
Canoe Ventures and CableLabs said they have been working with MSOs to expand the EBIF specification to satisfy emerging business requirements and are coordinating efforts to educate the technical, programming and advertising communities about the capabilities of the EBIF platform. Along with focused sessions and demonstrations at CableLabs’ Winter Conference, they have jointly developed and launched a new EBIF resource Web site and have planned a series of initiatives throughout the year aimed at increasing programmer and advertiser commitment to launching EBIF-based interactive content with Canoe and its founding cable operators.
“This new release of the EBIF specification is critical to ensuring a continuously expanding and valuable range of interactive television offerings across Comcast’s systems,” said Tony Werner, CTO of Comcast Cable. “We will ensure that our nationwide rollout of EBIF capabilities will comply with EBIF IO6 in order to assure our digital television subscribers will receive the latest features.”
CableLabs said more information about the EIF IO6 specification would be available on its Web site no later Feb. 26.