The Comcast Media Center has been field testing enhanced binary interchange format (EBIF) applications on its HITS AxIS platform for several months and recently announced that the platform is ready to support the commercial deployment of iTV services by cable operators. (For more, click here and here).

The beta testing occurred at several MSOs, including BendBroadband, Sunflower Broadband, Metrocast Communications and Buckeye CableSystem.

Among the applications that are ready for commercial deployent are icueTV’s t-commerce platform and an application from FourthWall Media (formerly Biap) to put local yellow pages on TV.

"The app itself has been running on our EBIF platform in a couple of markets – Surewest in Kansas City and SanJuan (Puero Rico)," said Ellen Dudar, chief product officer and co-founder of FourthWall Media. "Subs are using it there."

In these days of declining advertising revenues, yellow page ads could provide a new revenue stream for cable MSOs.

Dudar said the entire contents of a local yellow pages directory could be available on the application for viewers to search. Businesses that want to expand their profiles could buy upgrades from the service provider.

While cable offers the local spot advertisement, many smaller businesses cannot justify the production costs associated with a full-blown television commercial.  The interactive EBIF app provides a TV entry point for new advertisers.

"It really is tapping into the non-traditional ad market," said Dudar.

The yellow-pages-on-TV is an unbound application. Subscribers would find the app somewhere on the operator’s guide page, similar to VOD listings or widgit applications. After clicking on the yellow-pages icon, they could either search by most popular categories, for example pizza, auto or plumbers. Or they can enter specific search words using their remote control and a virtual keypad on the TV screen.

Dudar said, "Twenty-five percent of the time people actually enter a search term."

The search results will direct the subscriber to microsites with either the names and phone numbers of businesses or more robust content for companies that paid for upgraded advertising. Upgrades could include click-to-call or even VOD advertising.

-Linda Hardesty

The Daily

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