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Canoe Ventures Capsizes

Cable provider ad partnership laying off CEO and 120 staffers, abandoning interactive TV
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It was going to revolutionize cable television advertising; now it's been relegated to video-on-demand and TV Everywhere.

Canoe, a joint venture among the six largest cable companies in the country (Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, Charter, Cablevision and Bright House), began in 2008 with a mission to develop interactive TV ads that would give viewers the chance to get bonuses like product samples and coupons by pushing a few buttons on the remote.

The idea didn't go over at all with advertisers, however, and now Canoe is laying off 120 employees—including its CEO Kathy Timko, who's been in the job on an interim basis since July. The remaining 30 employees will focus on VOD ads, which will become Canoe's only product.

The company officially launched its "request for information" service in 2010, allowing advertisers to ask viewers for information that would let them tailor ads more closely to a consumer's desires. 

But Canoe ran into trouble with its ownership and their peers. Advertisers used to buying nationwide spots had to worry about the varying technology and standards employed by different cable operators, and the hassle kept advertisers from trying the new platform, regardless of potential benefits.

Canoe's new CEO Joel Hassell issued a statement on the layoffs and realignment this morning. "This is in line with Canoe’s founders’ original vision, which is to make cable television households the most attractive platform for advanced advertising," Hassell said. "It also aligns with the priorities of Canoe’s direct clients—national programmers."

The much smaller company, Hassell said, will focus on establishing the interactive ad market within VOD and later on exporting the idea to other platforms.