The Comcast Media Center has partnered with three additional cable companies to beta-test interactive TV applications on its HITS Axis platform. BendBroadband, Sunflower Broadband and Metrocast Communications will join Buckeye CableSystem as beta sites to test enhanced binary interchange format (EBIF) applications.

Hopes are pinned on EBIF as a way to offer two-way TV applications on legacy set-top boxes. (For more, click here.)

But developers who write interactive TV applications to EBIF specifications must eventually test those apps at a real cable system. That’s where the CMC comes into the picture. The CMC launched its HITS Advanced Interactive Services (Axis) platform in May 2008 and has been running interactive TV trials with Buckeye. (For more, click here.)

"When you’re starting to socialize interactive elements, you want to see how the consumer reacts to the TV, how he reacts with the remote control," said Gary Traver, SVP and chief operating officer of the CMC. "All this new data is flowing through their cable plant. They want to understand how that data interacts with other data that’s flowing on the plant and how many apps they can support. We want to see the entire ecosystem running."

HITS Axis is also collaborating with itaas, a company that is working with several cable vendors to write EBIF-based interactive TV applications. (For more, click here.)

"We get the applications to the MSO," said Vibha Rustagi, itaas’ president and CEO. "The MSO has to deploy it."

"We’re acting as a service bureau," said Traver, who explained that the CMC helps application developers test their wares, take them through the certification process, and make sure their product works with other elements. "We’re a business-to-business company," he added.

There have not been any open market deployments of EBIF apps in the cable industry; however, Rustagi said Verizon has launched some EBIF applications using an IP framework.

Asked what interactive applications were being beta tested, Traver said: "It’s kind of secretive. We’re encouraging all our app providers to make their products available for our test customers to snack on."

– Linda Hardesty

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