Television companies are keen to turn passive television viewing into a more active experience that’s of increasing value to advertisers, and CableVision announced today plans to let viewers click on ads with their remotes.

It’s the latest attempt by a television company to bring some online advertising features into the living room. And this time, Cablevision promises it will really happen. 

Optimum Select will be available to all 3 million subscribers and allows advertisers to buy premium ads with additional features. The ads will appear as banners on the bottom of the screen
that say“Click SEL for More.” Viewers can use their remote to click on a banner and get more info about the product, make a purchase or receive samples.

Gemma Toner, senior vice president of marketing and business
development at Cablevision, tells The New York Times: “This is really about believing that television can give you more, and
it is not about wrecking the television experience, but about extending
it.”

Over the next year, viewers will be able to get additional content like a film trailer and save
those items in their purchased video-on-demand queue.

The promise of interactive television has been on the horizon for years, but it’s been much slower than anyone thought. The cable companies’ consortium Canoe Ventures has been massively scaled back, and now television networks and cable companies are starting to integrate smaller online features into the television viewing experience on their own. 

Cablevision started targeting specific ads to specific households in March. The company has also had
more interactive channels for awhile, but they are further up the dial,
dedicated to brands like Walt Disney Co., Mattel Inc. and the U.S. Navy, and their clickable elements are limited to the small subset of viewers who actually go there. 

Borrowing features from online makes a lot of sense for television, but implementation remains a problem. This feature has the benefit of not being too disruptive, and it will be interesting to see how many people actually click to get more information and free stuff. Those numbers may be small, but acclimating television viewers to the act of clicking on ads (as the ad below tries to emphasize) could be useful later.

And while it’s not a huge step, it could help get TV viewers more accustomed to interacting with their sets instead of the passive viewing experience TVs are known for. And Time Warner knows it has an uphill battle in this arena.

According to Ms. Toner:

“We’ve been really careful in marketing this new feature, in that
interactive television, as I’m sure you know, has been sold to the
consumer over and over again. We’ve been very careful
not to overpromise but to actually deliver on the interactivity.”