Interactive TV is long overdue and non-believers are once again believers. The key is EBIF, the interactive TV standard developed under the aegis of Cable Labs. Canoe Ventures and Verizon’s Developers Program, two platforms leveraging EBIF, are talking about deployments in millions of homes by the end of 2009. And the good news is that TV stations will be able to participate in the new two-way services (and revenue streams), albeit in partnership with cable.
The cable guys have quietly been getting ready to introduce interactive technologies. Interactive TV is long overdue and non-believers are once again believers. And the good news is that TV stations will be able to participate in the new two-way services (and revenue streams), albeit in partnership with cable.
The key is the interactive TV standard developed under the aegis of Cable Labs. EBIF, as it is called, permits multiple programmers to offer interactive features to consumers through EBIF-enabled, set-top boxes. Canoe Ventures and Verizon’s Developers Program, two platforms leveraging EBIF, are talking about deployments in millions of homes by the end of 2009.
Broadcasters, perhaps unknowingly, have been installing gear that will allow them to create interactive content. They should not miss the opportunity.
The kind of interactivity I’m talking about enables programmers, including TV stations, to embed clickable links inside of commercials and programs with all kinds of commercial possibilities. A viewer, for instance, could click on an ad that drops a coupon into her online grocery account or e-mail or mail her more information about the product. Or, a fan of American Idol could order songs from iTunes as she listens to them being performed.
To offer such services, TV stations would use the same content management, graphics and traffic and billing systems.
The broadcaster would insert an EBIF-recognized trigger or code within their content and pass this to the content management system. At the same time, the content would be tracked through a customer code as a secondary event for billing.
The cable headend — through a contractual relationship with the broadcaster — would recognize the broadcaster’s EBIF trigger and pass it through to the consumer’s set-top box.
Once the consumer signifies interest by clicking the remote control, the response data is passed back to the broadcaster either directly or through a third party like a Canoe, Verizon or Backchannelmedia and matched to the customer data for invoicing.
As the broadcaster gains expertise in this technology, they could roll out hundreds of different applications — provided by a multitude of software providers — with each generating revenue, stabilizing ratings metrics or growing viewership.
Currently, a broadcaster airs about 500 30-second commercials each day. EBIF triggers could be embedded every 15 seconds throughout programming and commercials for a total of 5,760 on screen “links” a day. If the broadcaster has 400,000 total daily viewers (watching an average four hours a day), then the potential is there for up to a maximum of 384 million daily clicks for the broadcaster. That potential could put broadcasters back into the growth mode and offet any losses due to DVRs.
Broadcasters need to start talking about interactive television and also meeting with their cable providers. Interactive television is a different conversation than retransmission consent so the discussions should be kept separate. With Canoe’s planned 25 million EBIF homes by the fourth quarter and FIOS’s 2.5 million home, broadcasters will finally have the scale they need to make it a business.
Advertisers are plastering their content with 800-numbers and URLs. Each represents money broadcasters are leaving on the table.
Broadcasters should be focused on how to redirect the flow of these dollars from telemarketers to themselves through interactive television.
Michael Kokernak is a 20-year television industry veteran. He has spent the past 13 years researching and inventing monetization technologies for the digital spectrum. He is the named inventor on several patent applications in the space. In addition, Kokernak is the founder of Backchannelmedia (www.backchannelmedia.com). He be can contacted at [email protected].