Time to Get Your EBIF On
by Leslie Ellis // November 17 2008
If we don’t judge books by their covers, can we not judge acronyms by their letters?
Take EBIF, for example. People say it as a word: Ee-biff.
EBIF stands for “Enhanced Binary Interchange Format.” And, despite its oddly robotic sound, EBIF oozed with tacit and spoken appeal at last week’s CTAM Summit, in Boston.
Consider: In the Summit’s closing general session, Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif-Cohen named advanced advertising and business services as two sturdy growth areas for cable. Advanced advertising is long on EBIF.
Then, Canoe Ventures CEO David Verklin, who’s in charge of growing advanced advertising, described several interactive products on the Canoe roster. All of them use EBIF.
And, in an earlier panel, Comcast SVP of Digital TV Mark Hess urged programmers to get moving with EBIF applications, saying that 10 mil. Motorola converters in Comcast’s footprint will be EBIF-ready by mid-’09.
By my math, that juicy combo gives EBIF a money nod, a to-do list, and a big box footprint.
What is EBIF?
Here’s a quick brush-up on EBIF: It’s a completed technical specification, developed within CableLabs. It happened in response to BskyB’s popular “red button” service, in the U.K., where consumers can push a (red) button on the TV screen when an interactive something is available.
It’s designed to run on the fielded base of cable digital set-tops, which means the potential footprint is around 60 mil. U.S. households.
Programmers and advertisers especially like that last part.
What are the applications? Canoe’s Verklin described four: Voting / polling, requests for more information (RFI), television-based commerce (“imagine how that could revolutionize direct marketing”), and “telescoping,” into a piece of related content stored on a VOD or ad server.
Voting someone off a show uses EBIF as the means to display the clickable thing that lets you vote. Ditto for RFIs, and buying something on screen, and clicking in to more content — whether that content is an ad, or additional titles from that network.
Hess, in the earlier panel, also described a “remind record” feature. You’re watching a promo for a show, it’s of interest, you flag it as something you’d like to check out. Ditto for an advertisement of interest. That’s EBIF.
Which brings us back to the book, the cover, the acronym, and the letters. Granted, EBIF isn’t the sexiest of acronyms. Hess suggests calling EBIF “an applications engine.” Others on the panel suggested changing the name, as CTAM facilitated with OCAP and what is now tru2way.
Also important: Encouraging a weighted development environment between EBIF ads, and EBIF shows. Leading only or heavily with ads, for instance, may teach consumers than anytime the clickable thing comes up, it’s an ad.
This column originally appeared in the Platforms section of Multichannel News.