Interactive TV Beginning to Roll Out to Cable Consumers

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Joseph Pope (Linkedin), who works in Broadcast Media. He previously worked at MTV Networks as a Senior Sales Planning Analyst. He has BS, Information Studies and Technology from Syracuse University, and has a MBA, Finance and Media Management from Fordham University.

Comcast Spotlight, the ad sales division of Comcast, announced on Thursday that interactive television (iTV) advertising is now available in 30 U.S. markets, reaching more than 10 million homes. Comcast has a total footprint in 80 U.S. markets, reaching around 30 million homes.

iTV is an appealing option for advertisers, compared to having viewers record a show and fast forward through the entire commercial. In that scenario the brand message is lost and the ad buy is wasted. With iTV the viewer is engaged, educated and perhaps persuaded to make a purchase.

“The message from clients couldn’t be clearer: more than ever, their focus is on the return on their marketing investment,” said Kevin Smith, Group Vice President, Spotlight Integrated Media Sales. “Combining qualified leads and accountability with cable television’s reach and ability to efficiently segment audiences makes spot advertising an even more powerful tool.”

Comcast uses a process called Request for Information (RFI) to engage their viewers. In practice, a graphical overlay will appear over a commercial and the viewer can use their remote control to view an extended VOD commercial or have a coupon or product sample sent to their house. Comcast Spotlight claims over 160 advertisers have run more than 340 RFI-enabled ads resulting in 280 million impressions.

Users seem to be reacting favorably to RFI discounts, product samples and even the ability to watch an extended commercial on selected products. In a few years, some form of iTV will likely spread throughout all cable, satellite and fiber optic connected households with an expanded array of services. All Verizon FiOS set-top boxes, for example, are already equipped with an EBIF (Enhanced Binary Interchange Format) platform, which allows 2-way communications.

At some point direct response advertisements will allow consumers to purchase an advertised product using their remote control and have the product automatically ship to the billing address their television content provider has on file, all without interrupting the current program. The living room couch will become a point of purchase.

This begs the questions: will iTV-commerce sales eclipse e-commerce sales within the next decade? Will iTV gain widespread acceptance among viewers or will they just change the channel?


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Hercules holds a B.Comm Finance from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) level 3 candidate. He was previously a contributor at FiLife, a finance website owned by Dow Jones and IAC. Write to hercules@business2press.com
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