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Cable Providers Abandon Interactive Ad Venture, But Those Ads Will Be Back

Published on February 23, 2012

The U.S.’s largest cable TV providers have shuttered a venture that would let viewers interact with TV ads, and have laid off 120 employees, reports the Associated Press. Four-year-old Canoe Ventures enabled viewers of eight cable networks (including Bravo, Discovery and AMC) to request information by mail from advertisers by pressing a button on the remote control.
Canoe had a powerhouse roster of backers, which were Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bright House Networks; but neither viewers nor advertisers were interested.

That does not mean that advanced advertising is dead, reports Broadcasting & Cable. Rather, the effort may have been simply premature, and perhaps too broad in scope. Canoe aimed at becoming “a national standard bearer for interactivity, addressability and data gathering…a one-stop shop that would nationalize advanced TV.”

Of those three functions (interactivity, addressability and data gathering), one agency told Broadcasting & Cable that addressability is the first step. Tracey Scheppach, executive VP and innovations director at media agency VivaKi and its SMGx unit, felt that “being able to measure [advertising] and address it is so much more important than being able to interact with it.” Scheppach believes that the satellite operators and telcos that were excluded from Canoe are further along in deploying addressability to individual households. They have viewer households than cable providers, but a better grip on technology.

Mike Bologna, director of emerging communications at media agency GroupM, believes that Dish Network, DirecTV, Cablevision and Verizon “all have an addressable product in market today,” if not highly advanced ones, “and I think advertisers are going to focus on that for this current year…once we get the right message to the right households, the interactive overlays and the interactive components will become that much more valuable."

Canoe will close its New York office and retain 30 to 35 employees in Denver to better monetize on-demand programming (encompassing TV, tablet, computer and smart phone viewing). The individual operators will pursue interactive TV on their own.