Skip to main content

In the last Transition to Digital e-newsletter we discussed new and enhanced DTV features. The lifecycle of a targeted ad was described as an example of future capabilities of DTV. That future is not far away. Several enhanced and interactive TV trials and rollouts are underway.

Two key issues, personalization and privacy, must be resolved before enhanced interactive DTV can be enjoyed by the masses. In order to personalize DTV, viewer profiles must be made available to content providers. Freely distributing personal information can lead however to privacy concerns. This will require developing security technology solutions for broadcast media delivery platforms.

A personalized experience

The custom publishing segment of the magazine industry uses database-marketing techniques to personalize content and target customers. Based on one-to-one marketing principals, evangelized by the Peppers and Rogers' organization, the methodology builds a trusting relationship with its best customers and delivers targeted personalized content.

Recommender systems and targeted advertising will bring one-to-one marketing principles to DTV. Content and ads will be suggested or delivered to a defined target audience based on demographics, psychographics, geographic location, viewing habits, previous viewing choices, ad response and any other relevant distinguishing characteristics.


Where a viewer profile is stored and the type of delivery service (OTA, cable or DBS) used, directly impacts the security of a person's personal information. In OTA and DBS systems, without a backchannel, it is safe to have a user enter the information he deems necessary to get the personalized info he prefers. Information can never get back to the content originator in a unidirectional ACAP implementation.

In an OCAP implementation the backchannel is innate to the system technology. A viewer’s personal profile, viewing habits and history can be stored in an OCAP similar to the way a cookie stores data about its user on the computer. The MSO would have access to this data and could determine demographic and psychographics groups. The MSO sells the demo to the ad client, and directs the addressable ad to the target viewers in the desired group. The advertiser never has viewer information. You can consider how secure this might be.

A global perspective

The United States may have won the race to standardize HD and DTV, but the rest of the world is ahead in enhanced and interactive TV deployments. Since the adoption of the ATSC DTV standard, attempts at personalization and interactive TV deployments in the United States have been slow to gain commercial traction and consumer acceptance.

The Korean Broadcast System has been active in developing eTV and iTV. Efforts began with DASE and are now implementing ACAP-enabled features. SkyLife, a DBS operator, has deployed more than 1 million MHP-enabled iTV STBs since 2001. Services offered include weather, news, horoscopes, traffic and educational information.

Numerous European countries have also deployed eTV and iTV applications. In Great Britain, BBC Interactive offers Freeview interactivity on OTA, cable and satellite systems. At anytime while watching, viewers can press red, and jump to interactive content and features.

German broadcasters ARD, ZDF, RTL and ProSiebenSat1 have rolled out MHP-based interactive services. Development of a combined DSL MHP box is underway. In Italy, 1.5 million MHP-enabled receivers for digital terrestrial TV have been sold. An interactive OTA MHP data service channel is available in Spain. Several broadcasters in Finland also provide OTA, cable and DBS enhanced and interactive services.

In the United States, PSIP-enabled Electronic Program Guides (EPG) features have offered a basic form of enhanced TV. With the inclusion of DVR capabilities in STBs, scheduled program recording from the EPG has made time-shifted viewing easier. VOD and PPV are on demand services that personalize content consumption through interactivity.

Comcast Spotlight, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, offers a suite of integrated advertising applications. Targeted advertising is facilitated using Visible World’s AdTag and AdCopy.

RCN is deploying eTV in Chicago. NDS products, MediaHighway Core middleware and the ValueTV suite have been used in developing RCN’s iPortal and interactive applications that are delivered via the EPG gateway. The RCN case study can be found at

Time Warner is rolling out iTV features using multiple technologies. Navic systems are used for polling via the digital remote control on NY1. Broadband Interactive Applications (BIAP) implementations include ebay anywhere, Fantasysports Player Tracker and a personalized service PITV. An ebay anywhere trial is now underway in Austin, TX. For more information about these services, visit

DirecTV Active service offers interactivity including mosaics that allow the viewer to watch multiple networks of the same genre on one screen. All decoders sold from May 2005 are capable of receiving the needed software downloads. GameTracker enables customers to receive stats and scores from professional and college teams. NFL Sunday Ticket offers features, such as the Red Zone Channel, Short Cuts (game replays) and multiple games in windows. Daimler Chrysler has signed on as an interactive advertising partner.

Mexican broadcaster, Televisia, working with Aircode, has constructed a PSI/PSIP/iTV system. Initial ACAP tests were successful in broadcasting to several reception sites. The companies are also examining the convergence of TV and PC by evaluating PC-based ACAP middleware receivers. TV commerce, educational datacasting and viewer polling are among the applications being tested.

The players

Visible World provides targeted advertising technology and services and offers an end-to-end system that includes production tools and cable system implementation.

Two targeted features are available:

  • Adtag: For a 30 second spot, the first 25 seconds are identical everywhere and the final five feature a personalized tag.
  • Adcopy: Runs different ad content simultaneously. Targeted demo-based clips are inserted throughout the commercial.

Visit and participate in the assembly of a targeted ad. A 10-step countdown walks you through the process and then the ad you created runs.

BIAP offers three types of personalized features over cables systems. ebay anywhere, Fantasy Sports Ticker and PITV demonstrations can be found at The PITV demo describes the personal profile entry process. Information on Demand is available on Time Warner Cable, and enables localized features based on ZIP codes. A user profile, similar to that used on the Internet and including a 4-digit PIN is entered.

Tandberg AdPoint uses a VOD approach to enhance advertising delivery. An informative workflow diagram of their On Demand advertising platform, authoring tools and cable distribution infrastructure resources is available at

Invidi’s Advatar technology seeds STBs with demographic and behavioral statistics within specific groups. This data is used by each STB to parse incoming content and switch to the most relevant information based on stored data.

Completing the convergence

Article References


Packet Vision




"Digital Interactive TV and Metadata," written by Lugmayr, Niiranen & Kalli and Springer

Principles of personalized marketing can be found at the Peppers and Rogers Group Web site

Links to iTV Research Centers

iTV blog

Broadcasters, consumers and advertisers all profit from personalization and interactivity. The viewer is in control and gets relevant content and information. The advertiser reaches the optimum number of potential customers and increases ROI. Broadcasters satisfy their viewers by placing them in control of their TV experience and advertisers by delivering more lift for their investment. Charging for personalized and enhanced delivery services can increase revenue.

Several lessons should be learned from the mistakes of the Internet. From the outset, both content creator’s rights and viewer’s privacy should be protected. The opt-out model should be replaced with a choose to participate approach. No unauthorized downloads of software applications. Efforts should be made now to stop the flow of unwanted TV spam.

When media and the consumer can effortlessly move and consume content anywhere in their home, car, and office or while on the go, the metamorphosis will be complete. Content will be available OTA, via cable and DBS systems and the Internet. The transition to digital that began with the ATSC standard, continued with the conversion of the BOC infrastructure, will conclude with the personal home digital network. The converged TV and PC will be one.

Back to the top