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Rogers to Begin VOD Rollout in Canada

28 Feb, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

Rogers Cable, the cable arm of Canadian telecommunications behemoth Rogers Communications Inc.and sister to the second-largest video chain in Canada, Rogers Video, announced Feb 19 it would be the first company to roll out video on demand (VOD) in the country.

Rogers Cable, the largest provider in Canada with 2.3 million subscribers, is starting with a test of the service in 50 Toronto households, then expanding to about 1,000 in the next four months. After that the service will expand into Southwestern Ontario and Ottawa. By the end of 2003, the company plans to offer the service to 90 percent of its customers in Ontario.

Katie Bennison, manager of media and community relations for the 300-store strong Rogers Video chain based in British Columbia, said VOD availability really doesn't pose any greater threat to video rentals than pay-per-view (PPV) does.

“We are actually quite excited about it,” she said. “We see it as another way of consumers getting their entertainment.”

VOD will never be able to replace the collectible quality of packaged media, Bennison added, especially the special features content DVD — something VOD will likely never include.

“And some people simply enjoy going into the video store and browsing,” she said.

Slow adoption rates for the digital set-top technology needed to view movies via VOD will keep the application out of packaged video's way for some time, she said, and PPV and VOD marketing and promotional campaigns can often serve as a boon to video rentals.

Rogers Cable is offering a 45- to 60-day window for VOD delivery. Initially, all the content will be provided through an agreement with Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution, which distributes Miramax, New Line and Artisan product. Rogers Cable also plans to add television programs, documentaries and concerts.

The company hopes to eventually have 300 to 500 VOD movies available to customers each month.

Customers will need two pieces of digital technology (purchased or rented from the cablecaster) to use the VOD service: a digital set-top box and remote control system.

John Tory, president and CEO of Rogers Cable said he views VOD as a “killer app” that will inspire more people to buy the digital technology it takes to experience VOD.

Analysts responding to the company's VOD rollout announcement in Toronto's Financial Times cited licensing and programming logistics as a possible hinderance to VOD and pointed out that content providers are in no hurry to get out of the lucrative packaged media business.

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