Canoe to close iTV ad business, lay off over 100


It was only days ago that Canoe Ventures, the advanced television JV of the nation’s top cable companies, and the ANA released findings from a year-long study of interactive television (iTV) effectiveness. Now, Canoe confirmed with RBR-TVBR that it is shutting down its interactive TV advertising ops, closing its NYC office and laying off 120 employees, including CEO Kathy Timko. 30 employees will be left to focus on VOD ad insertion.

The decision came after a review by its cable operator owners (Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications and BrightHouse Networks).

After three years of testing and development, Canoe had enabled the delivery of iTV ads to more than 25 million cable homes nationwide across a limited number of cable nets: AMC, Bravo, Discovery, E! History, G4, Style and USA Network. Canoe commercially launched its iTV ad service in 2010, but advertisers did not use it beyond testing. Canoe’s request for information (RFI) interactive overlays on top of 30-second ads let viewers opt to receive more info, coupons or product samples via the mail with a few clicks of the remote.

Others leaving, according to Canoe spokesman David Grabert, include chief product officer Arthur Orduna, CMO Vicki Lins, SVP/Sales and Distribution Jim Turner and GM for interactive television solutions Jonathan Bokor. Staffers will receive severance packages and be offered outplacement services over the next few months.

Canoe will now focus on creating a national VOD ad platform from its new Denver HQ—its current technical facility. It will be headed by newly appointed CEO Joel Hassell (previously CTO). Canoe will build a way for MSOs and national programmers to generate revenue from dynamically inserting ads into VOD content both at home and on mobile devices and tablets.

A statement released by Hassell:

“Today, Canoe Ventures is evolving to focus its business on providing a platform for MSOs and national programmers to monetize on-demand content across multiple platforms-both video-on-demand inside the home, and TV Everywhere outside the home. This is in line with Canoe’s founders’ original vision which is to make cable television households the most attractive platform for advanced advertising. It also aligns with the priorities of Canoe’s direct clients — national programmers.

To make on-demand ad inventory as valuable as traditional broadcast (linear) or online inventory, the industry needs a standard, ubiquitous way to steward and monetize on-demand advertising. Canoe is committed to making this happen. Our new focus will be on giving programmers the ability to dynamically insert advertising into on-demand TV in a common way nationwide, by expanding our current technical platform and operations to facilitate advertising between many programmers and distributors.

As we establish our on-demand business, we’ll make it easy for national programmers to work with us, and easy for our MSO partners to deliver relevant and timely ads. Once we establish the market for dynamic ad insertion within cable’s VOD platform, our vision is to offer more robust reporting and data insights, introduce addressable dynamic ad insertion, and support dynamic ad insertion across a wide array of devices both inside and outside the home.

To succeed, we must prioritize and focus our resources. Therefore, Canoe will conclude its national interactive TV initiatives. Cable’s ITV business will continue through the ad sales teams and video business units at the individual MSOs, as they pursue business opportunities with these capabilities within their own footprints.

We thank all of our dedicated employees, programming partners, vendors, and other supporters, as well as pioneering national advertisers and their agencies for their work with Canoe and the industry. In particular, the members of the joint venture thank Kathy Timko for her outstanding leadership during her tenure.

Each of the founding MSOs continue their support for Canoe, and are committed to our new mission. We look forward to continuing to serve the industry by making dynamic advertising for on-demand a valuable reality.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Part of the issue with getting iTV rolled out was all of the MSOs would not all adopt the same technology across the board—the national footprint for Canoe of 25 million homes was not enough. Backchannel Media, which serves up similar technology to local broadcasters, hasn’t broken the mold with national advertisers yet, either.