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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 09, 2008

SureWest Teams With BIAP to Launch Interactive Cable Television

By Mani Soundararajan, TMCnet Contributor

SureWest (News - Alert), an independent communications holding company, has installed and deployed a new platform for television interactivity in a subsidiary cable system operating in the greater Kansas City market. This new platform uses the EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format) standard was developed to promote affordable and uniform television interactivity across multiple platforms. The EBIF platform and applications, created by iTV leader BIAP, are one of the first in-market cable deployments of the EBIF standard in an established cable system.
“These new interactive applications deliver added value to our customers and help make their lives more convenient,” said Ken Johnson, vice president and general manager of operations, Kansas for SureWest. “This EBIF standard is available to all of our television subscribers and we believe it offers an excellent added benefit for our valued customers. This new standard also places our company and our customers in a great position to benefit as interactive product browsing becomes more of a reality.”
“We think we have the best engineering and scientific group in the industry,” said Tim Peters, CEO of BIAP. “They were able in a short period of time to build an EBIF platform for cable operators, a user agent to display everything, tools for future third party development and of course translate our existing applications that had been running on SARA, into the EBIF standard.”
The EBIF standard was developed under the OpenCable project by CableLabsis to enable interactivity —  a feature that will drive many new viewer participation initiatives. Both the cable and broadcast industries have fully embraced the EBIF standard as the primary application platform to deliver these advanced features across the full range of deployed digital cable set-top boxes.
An EBIF page, much like a webpage, contains widgets like Forms, Buttons and even Video. The EBIF page, served by an Enhanced Television (ETV) application, is received, decoded and presented to the user by an ETV User Agent. Actions are also defined to control the interactive application.
Some of the applications currently available to SureWest digital television subscribers include Yellow Pages on TV, eBay (News - Alert) on TV, Fantasy Football and My TVi, a local news and information service that allows the viewer to personalize certain content such as stock tickers, sports teams and weather. Other applications that can be served on this platform include interactive voting and polling, Video On Demand, as well as customized advertising.
Being an open platform, this standard can be expected to bring in innovation in the interactive television segment.

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Mani Soundararajan  is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Mani’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Mae Kowalke