Toronto-based Rogers Communications acknowledges loss of monopoly status as it beefs up content and services to fend off new services from TV set makers
In what appears to be a blueprint for a response to Internet-enabled television sets, Rogers Communications today launched a series of upgrades to its cable-TV service to bolster its large customer base against sales pitches from a new generation of TV sets hitting the market this year.
The Toronto-based Internet service and cable-TV provider unveiled what it calls “the next generation of home entertainment” based primarily on a new set-top box. The new personal video recorder (PVR), called NextBox 2.0, will allow customers to watch TV and recorded shows from as many as four TV sets in the home, and will hold about 140 hours of high-definition programming. The feature will also show live and recorded TV on the Xbox, smartphones and Wi-Fi-enabled tablets (currently supported tablets are the iPad and Galaxy Tab 10.1, with apps available at iTunes and the Android Store).
Rogers' new service running on a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet
Rogers also beefed up its program guide, making it more interactive and informative, as well as new tiers of cable and Internet packages.
It has been widely known that TV service providers have been at best wary, and at worst terrified, by the prospect of subscribers buying TV sets that include services such as Netflix that allow them to watch programming not offered by the providers.
Among services being offered are LG Netcast (Netflix, YouTube and Yahoo widgets), Panasonic VieraCast (Amazon Video on Demand, YouTube, Picasa), Samsung Internet@TV (Yahoo Widgets and Flickr, as well as games, sports scores, Yahoo Video, Twitter and YouTube), Sony Bravia Internet Video (Amazon VOD, YouTube some CBS programs and Yahoo widgets) and Sharp Aquos Net (widgets similar to Yahoo, real-time traffic updates, fantasy baseball and a Picasa client).
But rather than declaring war against the trend to this kind of extra programming, Rogers’ approach appears to be a polite pre-emptive move to solidify its hold on its existing customers rather than a move to block competing content. Part of the allure will be a series of four new tiered subscription packages designed to cover different subscriber’s needs. A basic TV-and-Internet package will cost $86.13 per month; other packages will run at $104.92, $123.12 and $181.20 per month.
The entire strategy began recently when Rogers moved its Rogers on Demand service online, allowing subscribers to watch certain TV shows and movies when they want. The new service, still called Rogers On Demand on cable but Rogers Anyplace TV online.
The era of service providers controlling all TV content is over, Rogers vice-president of video products David Purdy told DigitalJournal.com at a press event announcing the new services. “We’re moving from a monopoly to a connected world.”
He added that subscribers who want to subscribe to content offered by TV set manufacturers would be delivered through metered billing, meaning that if a Rogers customer watched a Sony movie, for instance, the download would count toward a subscriber’s monthly data allowance, and would pay more if the customer exceeds the data cap.
How Rogers' new interactive listings look on its NextBox system.
“It would be a challenge to make it [TV supplied content] work as a replacement box,” he said.
The “whole-home PVR,” as Rogers calls the new service, will initially offer 22 channels with “many, many more to come.”
Another feature Mr. Purdy hopes will appeal to subscribers is the listings of movies in its on-demand services. The service will look like a store shelf. "People miss the old video-rental store," he said.
Users would be able to watch as many as four separate channels on four screens around the house. Mr. Purdy also described the new listings guide as “sleek, sexy, intuitive and customizable.”
Rogers’ previous listings service, which had remained largely unchanged for a dozen years or so, had been woeful for many viewers, who were frustrated they could not search for shows by name. The new service will also let viewers know whether a program is new or a repeat.
The system would require only one NextBox in a home, which would send the TV signals via a wireless connection to screens throughout the home.