CEO David Verklin said he stopped touting Canoe Ventures' interactive TV advertising platform until it morphed from possibility to reality. While he never seemed far from the stage, he emerged Tuesday to say the iTV product is in the market, and six cable networks are pitching it to advertisers.
Marketers can place overlays in spots that prompt viewers to click-through and request a coupon or sample. Verklin said Cablevision's AMC and Comcast's E! and Style are teed up to run the spots now, while the Discovery Channel and two NBC Universal cable channels are anticipated to be ready by year's-end.
So far, the "request-for-information" spots can only be delivered into some homes served by Time Warner Cable and Comcast. Verklin would not release the number, but it is likely no more than 15 million. Next year, Canoe aims to be able to stream spots into households served by TWC, Comcast, Cox, Cablevision, Charter and Bright House -- all part owners of Canoe.
Networks license the technology and then sell it to advertisers. Canoe then shares in the proceeds of a deal.
Canoe has missed some deadlines that Verklin promoted with launching products. And he indicated those shortfalls convinced him to take a lower profile until "what we were going to do" turned into "what we've done" -- i.e., the iTV offering.
When he took over Canoe, he said he didn't realize how challenging it could be to deliver a spot to a home with uplinks and head-ends, etc. Plus, in Canoe's case, enabling set-top boxes with new technology, and stitching together a footprint covering Canoe's six cable owners. His excitement about the end product -- the spots themselves and their capabilities -- may have overtaken him.
"If I had to do it all over again, I would've spent more time explaining the complications of the infrastructure challenges we faced," he said.
Verklin said Canoe has data showing that the simple appearance of an overlay on screen during an ad raises brand recall -- even if a viewer takes no action. "There's value to an unclicked banner," he said.
But could the triggers and prompts cause a backlash? Since few ads have them, Verklin said it's unlikely.
Comcast COO Steve Burke, who sits on Canoe's board and has been an evangelist for its potential, is set to become the chief of NBC Universal. Verklin said his new role won't diminish his eagerness, however -- and may even benefit Canoe. At NBCU, he could nudge the company's sales force to be more aggressive in pitching the iTV ads to clients.
"I think you'll find him to be even more bullish on Canoe than he was before," Verklin said.