Interactive TV with EBIF
This year, at The Cable Show, both Comcast and the rest of the industry are showcasing many examples of how we’re enhancing our cable networks by layering software onto it that enables new functionality and interactivity.
The technology that’s bringing a lot of this added interactivity to the show is one built on CableLabs Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF). I’m sure most of you have no idea what EBIF is, or what it can (and has been) doing for you.
Simply put, EBIF is a common software platform that enables cable systems across the industry to deploy simple interactive applications using existing systems and set-top boxes (your cable box). While this might seem like technical mumbo jumbo, if you’re a Comcast voice and video customer you’ve probably already used EBIF without realizing it. It powers Caller ID to the TV, a feature that many people find quite useful.
Earlier today, we joined Starz as they debuted one of the first interactive EBIF applications developed by a cable TV programmer. ENTERACT NOW lets you instantly switch to the on demand version of whatever movie or program you’re watching. This app will let you start shows over from the beginning, if you missed something, or save it for later viewing without have to take up space on your DVR. Pretty sweet.
What’s cool about EBIF is that we can use it to bring you new interactive features that will work on your existing digital cable set-top boxes, so you won’t have to swap your box or get a new TV to use them. The fact that EBIF is a "common" software platform, means that all cable companies can use it and all developers can write software for it. This simplicity is clearly leading to innovative solutions for the industry. And EBIF specifications are compatible with tru2way standards, so as we launch tru2way technology in additional markets, existing and new EBIF applications will continue to work.
We also announced that we’re working with a company called itaas that will be providing deployment support to help other cable companies bring interactive television features to their customers. This means that more consumers will be able to take advantage of these interactive apps, whether they have Comcast or another cable company’s service
We’re already testing new interactive features built on EBIF in select Comcast markets that enable customers to shop or request information directly from their remote. We’re planning to test other interactive features that will let our customers interact with the programming they watch in new and different ways, like voting in opinion polls or setting up music and video play lists.
This is just the beginning.
If you’ve read this whole post, I imagine you’re pretty excited about EBIF. What kinds of apps would you like to see on your cable box? Let me know in the comments.