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@ NCTA: All In The Same Canoe But Can They Row Together?

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The partner of the Clearwire-Sprint (NYSE: S) JV when it comes to The Cable Show buzz: cable advertising consortium Project Canoe, which comes with more hype — and hope — right now than details. Simply put, Project Canoe is cable’s latest effort to bring to its networks the kind of measurements and capabilities that make online advertising stand out. As Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) COO Steve Burke explained during a session with top cable operating and programming execs Monday, cable needs a way to dynamically insert ads to specific targets users and it needs more reliable ratings to sell the ads. About nine months ago, Burke, Landel Hobbs, COO, *Time Warner* Cable; Tom Rutledge, CEO, Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) Systems Corporation, Pat Esser, CEO, Cox; and Neil Smit, CEO, Charter (NSDQ: CHTR), agreed to work together. Nearly a year later, they’re finally on the verge of announcing a CEO; the hire has been made, Burke said, and will be announced June 1, while the office is already staffing up. Many actually expected an announcement here given that David Verklin, the former CEO of Aegis Media Americas widely believed to be the new CEO, is speaking was scheduled to speak at the show Tuesday on a panel about advertising, but canceled at the last minute.

“We have high hopes here,” Burke said, adding, “The first thing you had to do with VOD was create a model for getting the eyeballs and the second things is going to be monetizing those eyeballs.” (The third thing may be learning not to call people “eyeballs.”)

When conversation turned to competition with the programming available free online, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) Cable’s Hobbs added: “The internet is measurable and addressable. We’ve got to bring that same ability to television. That’s what we’re focused on. It comes back to Canoe: we have to deliver on that.”

David adds: Comcast and the other Project Canoe backers have indicated that they were looking for someone with agency background to help guide the ad targeting project. And Verklin has stated that his “next thing” will not involve working for an agency. So, if we can juggle both his transition out of Aegis and into Project Canoe, it looks like he’s still the most likely candidate. Verklin has fashioned himself as a kind of old-style agency statesman, and could help the cable collective avoid the kind of Congressional scrutiny Project Canoe backer Charter Communications is receiving over its own targeting initiative with online behavioral ad services provider NebuAd.