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Charter Communications plans to deploy ad widgets

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Charter Communications last week announced its intention to deploy FourthWall Media’s addressable interactive advertising solutions to some 800,000 subscribers in five markets. The fourth largest multiple system operator (MSO) in the U.S., Charter has worked with FourthWall previously on interactive TV technology related to video on demand.

The FourthWall ad widgets are based on Enhanced Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) and Stewardship and Fulfillment Interfaces (SaFI), two CableLabs-related interactive television specifications that enable the kinds of advertising applications and data that marketers are beginning to find useful.

“Interactive TV has proven to be an effective solution for advertisers and a good experience for consumers,” said Jim Heneghan, President Charter Media, in a statement. “It connects businesses with viewers in real time on their television.”

Once these applications are downloaded to subscriber set-top boxes and linked to the related enhanced (E)TV server and management platform, Charter will be able to deliver advertisements to consumers based on demographics or geography. FourthWall’s advanced and interactive ad capabilities include addressable versioning, billboards, telescoping, requests for information, and polling and trivia.

Advertising is a relatively minor but stable share of overall MSO revenue. According to Craig Berkley, Charter Senior Director of National Sales and Development, advertising accounts for around 5 percent of total MSO revenues. Interviewed for a Videonet special report on advanced advertising released last fall, Berkley said that despite its size, advertising has been “a good business to be in.”

“Because our inventory comes on cable network programming, and that viewership has grown steadily over the past 15 to 20 years, our ad inventory has grown over the years,” Berkeley said.

Until recently, the major U.S. cable operators divided any talk of interactive advertising into two tracks: one concerning internal initiatives and the other referencing their national partner Canoe Ventures. After Canoe shuttered its interactive TV ad business in February 2012, advanced advertising news has returned to MSO’s own markets.

But whether such efforts were leading to internal local avails or Canoe-based national campaigns, prior to launching any EBIF-based apps, operators needed to conduct system-wide tests to assure good two-way conduits for interactive signals traveling from headend to set-top box and back. As of last fall, Charter was still involved in these EBIF “pipe-cleaning” exercises. This announcement with FourthWall suggests that the pipe is nearly clean.

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