ACTV to Support Video-on-Demand and Personal Video Recorders

Video-on-demand and personal video recorders like TiVo — both of which allow users to circumvent traditional TV ads — have been seen by many as a threat to not only broadcast advertising, but to the fledgling in-stream interactive TV industry. But New York-based iTV player ACTV is aiming to unite the two camps with an update to its service that delivers ads to both digital television broadcasts and VOD/PVRs.

This is good news — thus far, there hasn’t been much overlap in the advertising-oriented initiatives of PVR companies like TiVo and ReplayTV, and iTV ad firms like ACTV or Alameda, Calif.-‘s Wink Communications.

Previously, when an advertiser like Universal Studios wanted to advertise on PVRs (it launched such a campaign last August) it had to deal directly with the system manufacturer (in this case, ReplayTV.) Likewise, ACTV and Wink and a few others are big names in digital television broadcast advertising, but have little cross-over to handle VOD or PVR ads.

But now, ACTV’s SpotOn ad serving technology — which was developed through an ACTV-led joint venture with Motorola and OpenTV — will now support those two new applications in addition to its native iTV advertising format.

“While some view VOD and PVRs as a threat to the traditional TV advertising model, ACTV sees them as a significant revenue-generating opportunity,” said ACTV’s chief technology officer, Kevin Liga.

As a result of the upgrade, an ACTV-affiliated digital TV operator can use hard disk storage — whether it’s located in its own streaming content server, or in a user’s set-top box or a stand-alone PVR — to deliver targeted commercials.

Furthermore, new additions to SpotOn will actually allow advertisers to mix VOD/PVR and in-stream ads. Consumers who see a targeted commercial during a live broadcast will be able to access additional information — either by starting a VOD session or by accessing previously recorded material on their PVR. In such an example, consumers could click on a 30-second spot to view an in-depth infomercial on the product, or switch to a “virtual channel” to find information on local dealers.

In another example, ACTV said operators could attach targeted trailers to VOD movies, providing information on local theaters and show times. Theater owners could also deliver ticket coupons or promotional material through peripheral devices such as interactive printers.

“Our enhanced SpotOn product enables operators and programmers to capitalize on these emerging platforms by giving advertisers the ability to precisely target their desired audience and provide them with in-depth promotional information that is simply unattainable in a live broadcast,” Liga said.

Though largely speculative at this point, ACTV isn’t the only one talking about the future of iTV advertising. Far from it — the Alley company’s news was joined by a spate of heady announcements from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s annual conference this week in Chicago.

Earlier on Monday, Cleveland-based SpotOn rival everstream debuted its iTV ad serving product, S3, which too provides operators the ability to insert ads into iTV broadcasts, interactive program guides and VOD.

Online behavior modeling firm Predictive Networks, too, launched its ADirector inventory management and targeted ad serving system for in-stream interactive TV.

Additionally, online ad firm DoubleClick unveiled a new version of its new ad serving product, DART, which could conceivably deliver all manner of iTV ads with the proper support from carriers — from banner ads to overlay/image-insertion ads to audience-targeted full-motion spots.

According to Predictive Networks’ president and founder, Devin Hosea, the latest offerings by iTV ad firms represent a state of product development designed to address issues hindering the industry’s growth.

“Network operators want to increase the value of their services and monetize enhanced television applications with e-commerce offers, promotions, and on-demand information that is highly personalized to viewers’ preferences and interests,” Hosea said. “Personalized advertising and commerce are clearly the best ways to derive increased revenue from these services, yet, early approaches to ad-enabling have been piecemeal, time-intensive or didn’t scale.”

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