Comcast to launch interactive TV applications for 50 networks this year

Comcast expects to deliver interactive TV applications for as many as 50 networks by the second half of 2010 and is determining how to extend interactive capabilities to broadcast networks.

The cable operator, which is in negotiations to buy NBC Universal, also plans to roll out “instant info” widgets that provide news, weather, sports, traffic and horoscopes. The interactive cable services initiative would reach more than 12 million households.

Walker, Canoe Ventures, the advanced advertising joint venture owned by six of the largest MSOs in the United States, is in the process of dealing with the technical issues to extend interactive capabilities to broadcast networks. This was confirmed by Todd Walker, senior vice president of video development at Walker, Canoe, speaking at an interactive TV event held by the New York chapter of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing.

So far, Walker said, Comcast has deployed user agents for CableLabs’ Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) to 19 million Motorola set-top boxes. That’s about 85 percent of the cable operator’s Motorola footprint. All the Motorola set-top boxes are set to work by mid-year.

To enable Comcast to deploy interactivity to 50 networks, the operator is engaged in a “pipe cleaning” re-engineering processes to accommodate the additional bandwidth needs of EBIF apps, Walker said.