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EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format)

EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format) is a collection of signaling and messaging specifications that makes it possible for television program producers and advertisers to create and serve interactive multimedia content through a television’s set-top box.

EFIF defines how a special software application called a TV app should be written so that any set-top box - even an older one - can run the app and provide the viewer with a point and click interactive TV experience. EBIF is expected to be the precursor for tru2way, a Java-based platform for interactive (two-way) applications.

EBIF requires that each set-top box have a “user agent.” The agent, which is downloaded to the set-top box by the viewer’s cable or satellite service provider, is client-side software that interprets the TV app and displays the appropriate images, messages and navigational elements on the television screen. TV apps are often run on dedicated channels, but they can also be integrated into commercial advertisements or even television shows.

A TV app can be built into broadcast video ahead of time or integrated digitally while the content is being sent to the set-top box. The viewer interacts with the TV app by using the set-top box’s remote control and essentially the viewer’s TV screen becomes a computer monitor, the app becomes a web page and the remote control becomes a mouse. The content is either bound, which simply means it is linked with a particular piece of television programming, or it can be unbound, which means it is independent of a specific piece of programming.

EBIF is increasingly being used as a way to let viewers click to request more information about a product, view more episodes of a show (also called telescoping), register a vote or respond to a poll. If you are able to use your smartphone, tablet, laptop or gaming device as a television remote control, you are using EBIF.

Continue reading about EBIF:

Cable Television Laboratories has a primer on EBIF, a developers portal and more information about EBIF specifications.

This was last updated in July 2011

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