Tru2way is cable's new way forward

Tru2way is coming. The last couple of years may have belonged to IPTV and other telco TV technologies, and telcos' video services so far have proved to be fairly recession-proof. But, the cable TV industry is ready to launch the next round of competition with a new weapon. That weapon will be enhanced interactivity, thanks to Tru2way, and with the National Cable TV Association's The Cable Show coming up next week in Washington, D.C., you can expect Tru2way to be a hot topic of conversation in the days ahead.

Timed with The Cable Show, cable TV Cox Communications has picked NDS to begin implementation of at least 20 interactive TV applications-including caller ID on TV, e-mail viewing on TV, bill paying, widgets and more-on the company's Tru2way platform. The two firms actually have been working together since last year. And the interactive applications suite will be driven through the new user interface and media guide that NDS developed for Cox.

Lisa Pickelsimer, executive director of video product development at Cox Communications, said, "We have been frustrated for a while by our inability to innovate on our set-top boxes. They have involved a lot of proprietary technologies that don't interoperate, and that's part of the benefit of Tru2way. It will give is a better opportunity to innovate." She acknowledged that it makes Cox more competitive against telco offerings, but beyond that, she sees Tru2way as a way to strengthen the company's brand with its customers by giving them a new navigation format and a way to engage them through new applications.

Some service providers have begun to use the Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format to get a start on advanced applications such as interactive advertising. EBIF is primarily for legacy STBs, and while it gives service provider a horse in the early interactive TV race, Tru2way is the thoroughbred they will be counting on later.

Steve Tranter, vice president of broadband and interactive delivery at NDS, said that the top five cable TV companies all are gearing up this year to roll out Tru2way applications in some capacity. He said EBIF is popular among content companies who want to extend interactivity as soon as possible, but that EBIF applications are complimentary and can run through new Tru2way STBs, too.

Tru2way proponents have made attempts to woo the telco TV sector as well. At NXTcomm last year, CableLabs chief Richard Green offered Tru2way as a universal interactive TV platform. Most telcos would not hear of it, but ultimately, the cable TV market may want to keep Tru2way to itself anyway. Likewise, as telcos such as Verizon Communications and AT&T intensify their own development of more interactive TV elements such as widgets for social networking sites, the cable TV industry must act aggressively to leverage Tru2way. Interactive TV has been on the horizon for almost 15 years, and IPTV service providers only recently have reached that horizon and started to explore it. The teaming of Cox and NDS is just one more way in which that is happening.

- Dan

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