Ears perked up during Sun’s Cable Show opening session when Comcast CEO Brian Roberts indicated that cable has "just hired or is about to hire" a CEO for Project Canoe, the industry effort to standardize interactive ad technology in cable systems throughout the country. Targeting advertising is the "holy grail" for cable, he said. Pressed about the issue later by reporters, Roberts said he didn’t have an answer today on a timeframe for the venture. "The first most important thing is to hire a leader and fill in with the execution plan. It’s been a high priority, and we’re nearing the end of that process," the Comcast chief said. "I may be a little ahead of myself, but so what. I think it’s an important exciting step." Last month, Ad Age reported that outgoing Aegis Media Americas CEO David Verklin is expected to lead Project Canoe. Should be interesting since Verklin is slated to speak at Tues’ general advertising session. Another new venture that took center stage during Sun’s session was the WiMax jv led by Sprint and Clearwire ( Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House are investors). Paul Otellini, pres/CEO of Intel (also an investor in the jv), said it will probably be the fastest, nationwide network built first. "This country will finally move from sort of 3rd World position in wireless communications to lead the world," he said. Otellini expects the network to consistently be above 5Mbps and able to reach 14-15Mbps in some areas. The difference between the WiFi jv and cable’s Pivot jv with Sprint is that this is not a "me too product," Roberts said. Pivot "was if we needed a quadruple play product… Sprint would say you can have my phone and call it something different…We’ve not needed a quadruple play, so we don’t feel we were harmed by it not being successful," Roberts said. The WiMax jv is a different proposition. "It’s not a 5 or 10 year deal. It’s forever," he said. "It’s a founder’s relationship that is permanent, and it’s wholesale, meaning we can go to our customers with our billing, our marketing, our package. We design the products." In a later panel Sun, Jim Patterson, Sprint Nextel‘s pres, wholesale services, said the new Clearwire relationship has "a lot more flexibility and freedom about how you go to market" compared to Pivot. Programmers talked up how the new Wi-Fi network will open up new distribution opportunities for them. "We’re a pure play content company so we love all the new forms of distribution because it provides more ways for us to interact with our audiences," said Viacom pres/CEO Philippe Dauman. Some may have been surprised that neither Dauman nor News Corp pres/COO Peter Chernin seemed overly concerned about digital rights management in the age of new media. Nor were they sweating the fragmentation it brings. "To the degree we’re trying to protect our existing businesses, we’re toast," Chernin said, pointing to the music industry as a prime example. "We better build new businesses and new business models faster than the old ones may erode."

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