The cable industry is a buzz with interactive advertising, and central to this development is the evolution of OpenCable architecture (as it’s known within cable) and tru2way (as it’s known from a consumer perspective). The success of this initiative is dependent on the development of integral components of this system, including network, standards, set-top box middleware, and applications. Paul Kagan’s session "Time is Now, Designing and Launching Interactive TV Technology" brought representatives from companies providing many of these components to MSOs that ultimately enable interactive services.
"A lot of people thought OpenCable was started to address a political problem," said So Vang, VP of OpenCable at CableLabs, but actually "OpenCable was started to do what we did for HSD [create DOCSIS] for video." While a long time in the making (compared to DOCSIS), OpenCable has many legacy issues to address that were not present in high-speed data, which represented a Greenfield rollout—thus the longer delay overcoming these obstacles. Beginnings The evolution of interactive advertising began with each service representing its own silo and requiring dedicated resources back in 2003, then migrated to an IP convergence between 2006 and 2008, and finally the virtualization of services shaping up to develop between 2008 and 2011. Key to this evolution is the maturation of the network and services to all use common IP communications to the point where "the network becomes the platform for network virtualization," said Kip Compton, senior director Video & Content Networking, for Cisco. Virtualization of services allows MSOs to take current regionally focused applications, move them onto a converged network, and enable location independence as well as nationalized applications. Challenges, progress Tru2way applications have been challenged to work with operators’ individual back offices, which lack the standardization needed to allow greater application portability. Comcast’s Steve Renolds and Jeff Bonin of Alticast described operator progress toward a standard application delivery platform that includes a widely deployed platform, robust application market, as well as a better set-top box.
Progress made in building this interactive infrastructure is creating wide-open opportunities within the TV application development space, and a handful of these application developers demonstrated during the Interactive Application Showcase that kicked off the day’s sessions.
As the interactive infrastructure matures, developers are coming forward with new applications for the tru2way platform. However, "If the infrastructure doesn’t pick up the pace, these applications can’t be realized," said Compton. While Kagan asked for timelines from the presenters, clearly the current MSO focus involves building out tru2way capability with the hope that once established, the interactive applications and advertising will come.
– Bruce Bahlmann