Canoe Lands 4 Network Partners

Ahead of the launch of its first interactive TV application, Canoe Ventures has lined up four major programming partners in Comcast Networks, Discovery Communications, NBC Universal and Rainbow Media.

Set to begin rolling out before the end of the second quarter, Canoe’s ITV service will be adopted by each group’s individual cable networks, including E!, Discovery Channel, USA Network and AMC. The first live offering will be an RFI app that enhances the value of a traditional 30-second spot by allowing for a more interactive viewer experience.

Canoe’s RFI overlay will enhance standard brand messages by introducing graphical elements enabling viewers to request further information about a given product or service. For example, a 30-second autism awareness PSA may end with a prompt for viewers to request that a free brochure about the disorder be mailed to their homes.

“We are excited to offer marketers advanced ITV capabilities on top of our valuable inventory,” said Dave Cassaro, president, ad sales, Comcast Networks. “We recognize that advertisers and viewers want more from TV — the simple and seamless interactivity enabled by Canoe’s ITV solution is a big step forward in TV’s evolution.”

While the first programmers to kick the tires on the RFI service were identified, Canoe still hasn’t specified which operators will host the template. That said, Canoe has been testing the offering with at least five of its six MSO investors (Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Charter Communications and Bright House Networks) since late last year. (Cox Communications sat out the initial trials.)

“Canoe’s mission is to turn television into the next great interconnected digital platform,” said David Verklin, CEO of Canoe Ventures. “We hope to be a part of enhancing the television experience starting with the launch of truly national interactive TV, something we as an industry have been talking about for many years.”

As Canoe preps its RFI add-on, the company also continues to tweak a product that will allow for dynamic ad insertion into VOD content.
While operators have waited since 2008 for Canoe to begin rolling out its first suite of ITV products, at least one New York-based MSO has been busy pursuing its own advanced-advertising agenda. In October of last year, Cablevision took the wraps off Optimum Select, a new service that includes a call-to-action application. Among the first clutch of clients to sign on as Optimum Select partners were Unilever, Gillette, Gotham retailer Century 21 and Benjamin Moore paints.  

“Cablevision has been a leader in the development and deployment of interactive advertising in the New York metropolitan area, and we have already seen the benefits of this advanced technology,” said Arlene Manos, president, national ad sales, Rainbow Networks. “We look forward to working with Canoe to incorporate interactivity into advertising on Rainbow’s networks across the country, enhancing viewer engagement and results.”

Since it launched two years ago, Canoe has experienced a few setbacks. The company pulled the plug on an addressable-advertising product in the summer of 2009, after an early test failed to spark interest among cable nets. At the time, Verklin said Canoe would shift focus toward developing an RFI app.