An arm of the Comcast Media Center has begun pitching a "Yellow Pages on TV" application to cable operators to offer on their local systems. The interactive-TV system allows one's fingers to do the walking -- with a remote control.
The function, among other capabilities, allows a viewer to scroll through lists of business types or search by company name -- then access contact info. A viewer can also click a "call me" button initiating a call to a business, which immediately calls back.
A business looking for more attention could also post a video about its services.
The group within the CMC behind the HITS AxIS service is looking to encourage operators in mid-size markets to offer the platform, billing it as a way to expand an advertiser base. That's a potential benefit as the cable spot business suffers.
For example, plumbers and lawn services may not run TV ads, but they have been in the Yellow Pages for years and could be attracted to a local-search-on-TV opportunity.
"In a mid-size market, there are tens of thousands of Yellow Pages advertisers and hundreds of TV advertisers, so it creates this opportunity for nontraditional advertisers," said Patrick Peters, executive vice president at FourthWall Media, which developed "Yellow Pages on TV" and has turned to Comcast to help boost deployment.
A listing can cost as little as $8 a month. Or there might be a so-called Cadillac option at up to $5,000. Here, a car dealer might pay for a banner ad to appear on the screen whenever search results for vehicle dealers come up. Or it could offer viewers a library of videos of every model it sells.
Companies can pay for placement, so their listing comes up in a more prominent spot. A florist might pony up to appear on the "first screen" that appears.
"Yellow Pages on TV" has had limited availability on cable systems so far. A SureWest system in Kansas City offers it; OneLink does so in San Juan; and Time Warner Cable has it in several DMAs.
CMC has relationships with a slew of operators that may buy in. The FourthWall system is propelled by the EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format) platform that enables set-top boxes to serve a range of iTV functions, including advertising.
"Yellow Pages on TV" has Internet-like functionality; it offers advertisers an opportunity to track effectiveness with data on the number of click-throughs their listings receive.
FourthWall Media, formerly Biap, develops iTV applications, including eBay on TV and a fantasy football offering known as TV Widgets. It also offers an extensive iTV advertising support system tabbed as Ad Widgets.
Peters said the company could have labeled its system "Local Search," hut opted to employ the Yellow Pages moniker because of its resonance.
"When you say 'Yellow Pages on TV,' everybody knows what that means," he said. "It really leverages the 100-plus year-old habit that has been created."