Multichannel News

by Todd Spangler & Kent Gibbons

Can cable tap the creative energy surrounding the Web and put it to work on interactive TV applications?

That’s the hope for the OCAP/EBIF Developer Network (OEDN), a community site launched in January with the backing of several major operators, ITV vendors and others.

The site,, is dedicated to promoting awareness of CableLabs’ two primary interactive specifications: the OpenCable Application Platform (rebranded tru2way for consumer-facing products) and the Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF).

OEDN is the brainchild of Will Kreth, Time Warner Cable’s senior director of advanced video product management. Two years ago, he envisioned the need for a way to bring independent developers into the interactive TV cable fold.

“We realized that if OCAP and EBIF were to emerge as viable platforms we’d need to build a developer ecosystem eventually,” Kreth said. “We needed to investigate a way to build a community from the ground
up — not from the top down.”

In addition to Time Warner Cable, OEDN has support from Comcast, Cox Communications, Insight Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications.

Several interactive TV vendors also participated in forming the site, including Ensequence, Vidiom Systems, TVWorks and itaas.

Kreth pointed to Internet-based models for development, such as the Google-led Android Alliance for creating “open” mobile Internet applications, to illustrate the need for OEDN.

The cable industry, he said, is “not doing as good a job capturing young minds” as Web 2.0 initiatives geared around interactive and collaborative technologies for the Internet.

Ultimately, OEDN is a way to reach people who don’t necessarily attend CableLabs conferences, according to Kreth: “We need to grow the base.”

CableLabs, meanwhile, last month announced that it established a project area on Sun Microsystems’ site dedicated to tru2way/OCAP developers.

Kreth said that initiative is complementary to OEDN. The site is intended for “for real lines of code–checking projects in, checking projects out” to allow OCAP developers in different locations or companies to collaborate, he said.

“Our site is more geared around trying to pull together the core functions of a developer community,” Kreth said.

Michael Bloxham, director of insight and research at Ball State University’s Center for Media Design and part of OEDN’s advisory board, said the creation of standards, the rise of TV interaction via text messaging and the shift next year to digital TV broadcasting all point to possible real progress on ITV this year.

“At the moment our TV screens are the most primitive screens we have access to as a consumer,” Bloxham said, with interactions basically limited to channel changes and recording options.

But Comcast, for example, said last month it plans to invest $50 million to $70 million this year in Project Canoe, an interactive-advertising platform several MSOs see as having great revenue potential.

“That’s real commitment,” Bloxham said. “That’s something that gets things deployed.”