US cablecos combine on ads

America's six largest cable companies are making plans for a jointly owned company that would allow national advertisers to buy customised ads and interactive ads across the companies' systems.

For the last six months, executives from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications and Bright House Networks have been planning the move. Stephen Burke, president of Comcast, and Landel C. Hobbs, the chief operating officer of Time Warner Cable have been leading the move code-named Project Canoe.

Getting the right advertisement to the right person, based on that individual's own tastes and lifestyle, has been the promise of cable television for years and the reality of the Internet. Cable companies and even Google — which has a deal with the satellite TV company EchoStar to sell television ads — see customised features in television as a potential gold mine.

Collectively, the cable companies will initially put about $150 million behind the effort in order to build a national service that can sell targeted advertising across all six cable systems.

Combined, the nation's cable operators generate about $5 billion in revenue from selling local advertising in markets where they own the infrastructure to people's homes, a small slice of the $70 billion television advertising pot. They largely compete with local newspapers and radio stations. But Project Canoe will allow the industry to sell ads on a nationwide basis through a joint platform.

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