Rogers and Bell bring TV onto the Web

The day after Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) announced it was developing a combination of its high speed Internet service and satellite television Rogers Cable Inc. announced Tuesday it’s launching its Rogers Interactive Television in Ottawa and the Durham region.

Rogers says this is the first phase of its Interactive Television a service that will offer the Rogers Digital Choice platform and provides Rogers’ customers the ability to surf the Web, receive e-mail, save “favourite” sites and conduct on-line banking and shopping – all through the television. TV viewers will be able to use a wireless keyboard to easily switch from video channels to the Internet in a matter of seconds, Rogers said.

Rogers Interactive TV is available for $19.95 a month. The Start-up Kit with wireless keyboard is $79.95 (one time charge) and can be picked up at any Rogers Video store that sells cable products.

Based on Microsoft WebTV Networks’ technologies and services Rogers Interactive TV is the first product to be delivered as part of a July, 1999, agreement between Rogers and Microsoft Corp. to deliver enhanced TV services via digital cable.

In the future, Rogers plans additional enhanced TV services built on the Microsoft TV platform software to Rogers’ customers nationwide. These additional services will be deployed on what the company called “next generation Advanced Set Top Boxes.”

Meanwhile BCE Inc. chairman and CEO Jean Monty announced in Toronto that the company was developing technology codenamed “ComboBox” that will allow the company to combine Bell ExpressVu, its satellite TV service, with its Sympatico High Speed Edition DSL Internet access service along with content from Bell Globemedia, its multi-media company to give customers access to more interactive content.

The services will be delivered via an Internet gateway, the ComboBox, connected through Bell’s DSL service and an enhanced television set top box. Monty said by integrating these capabilities, Bell ExpressVu customers will be able to access the Internet from their television, send and receive e-mails, chat on-line, use instant messaging, obtain interactive information on the broadcast programs that they are watching, as well as play games, download content and create customized programming. Similarly, Bell’s high-speed Internet customers will be able to add interactive digital television and home networking capabilities to their DSL service.

Bell Canada is partnering with Nexland, Inc. of Miami and Echostar Communications Corporation of Denver to develop the “ComboBox” technology for integrating satellite TV and DSL services. Nexland currently supplies Internet sharing hardware to Bell Canada for business customers, and EchoStar is designs satellite TV receivers for Bell ExpressVu in Canada. EchoStar offers the satellite TV receiver technology through its U.S. based DISH Network.