DoubleClick Targets iTV

Web ad giant DoubleClick is hoping to leverage its dominant position in the Internet ad serving space to move into interactive television, through a deal with iTV firm Liberate Technologies.

The agreement — announced Thursday during the Western Show, one of the cable industry’s biggest annual confabs — will see DoubleClick’s AdServer software delivering ads via Liberate’s open-software products, which cable operators use to deliver enhanced television. According to the firms, AdServer also has already been integrated into Liberate’s set-top-box software, Navigator, which allows viewers to receive iTV.

Now, the companies say they plan to hitch AdServer up to Liberate’s back-end technology, Connect, which actually delivers iTV streams — effectively paving the way for cable operators to begin selling interactive TV ads.

What’s more, using the same sort of technology New York-based DoubleClick employs to serve targeted ads online, those operators also would be able to deliver iTV spots and pop-ups based on consumer preferences.

DoubleClick had been talking about such a rollout since March, when it unveiled a new version of AdServer. But the firm had yet to make any major partnerships in the area — until now.

“By partnering with Liberate and combining our strengths, we have created an integrated solution that will allow new and existing AdServer customers to monetize iTV content and services,” said Richard Frankel, vice president and general manager of DoubleClick’s AdServer division. “We are combining the technological expertise and innovation of two leading companies to deliver tremendous new value to a powerful traditional medium.”

Several other players in the Web ad-serving space have made forays into the area — such as 24/7 Real Media’s deals with video-on-demand provider SeaChange and U.K. iTV firm Pace, earlier this year. But the announcement is the first between a major U.S. interactive television player and an ad server, and other players haven’t been as vocal as DoubleClick about their dedication to the new medium.

Yet despite the high rhetoric, it’s uncertain how ready the market is for such an offering. In June, research firm Jupiter Media Metrix said in a report that iTV deployment would be hampered for years, due to the fragmented technology and cable markets.

Additionally, some industry-watchers have voiced concerns about the amount of consumer information that would be collected under proposed iTV advertising arrangements.

Still, new partners DoubleClick and Liberate say they are optimistic about the prospects.

“Liberate is committed to providing the best end-to-end solutions for iTV that deliver the highest-possible value for our network operators,” said Liberate’s Charlie Tritschler, who is vice president of marketing at the firm. “This collaboration leverages DoubleClick’s advertising technology expertise so we can offer our customers the ability to create new revenue streams on our standards-based platform.”

In other advertising-related news from the Western Show, Liberate rival OpenTV announced a partnership with graphics and design software giant Macromedia. Through that arrangement, OpenTV’s middleware would be made to work with Macromedia’s Flash technology, which is one of the leading rich media technologies used in online ads and site design.

Ideally, this could help ad agencies design creatives that could run on the Web or on interactive TV, and also opens the door for agencies to use new tools to design broadcast ads.

The companies also said that Flash capabilities would be added to OpenTV’s embedded Internet browser, Device Mosaic.

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