Rogers brings Interactivity to your TV

As tonnes of new television stations come to a boob tube near you, and the Internet moves from a ‘nice to have’ product to a ‘need to have’ product, Rogers Cable Inc. is currently field-testing its new Rogers Interactive TV services in Toronto, as part of a July 1999 agreement with Microsoft Corp. to deliver enhanced television services via digital cable.

“This kind of maturing of the market is causing products like Interactive TV to become very, very relevant to people,” said Michael Lee, general manager, Interactive Services, Rogers Cable.

Drawing a line between


and Interactive TV, the new service will, “be much more of a social product because TV is not a personal experience. You watch TV with other people so you’ll gather information with other people; you’ll also gather information about what you’re watching or what you’re going to watch. It’s about enhancing the television experience,” he said.

Via their existing television and cable connection, Interactive TV will initially offer customers the ability to surf the Internet, receive e-mail, save favourite sites and conduct on-line banking and shopping. The service will enable television viewers to use the wireless keyboard to switch from video to channels, allowing for a “seamless Internet and TV experience,” said Lee.

The service will focus on two different demographics: classic late adopters of the Internet who are either interested in coming aboard for communication purposes or have decided their casual use does not justify purchasing a computer; also the service will give aggressive Internet households “another way of getting on the Internet so they can free up some time on the computer,” said Lee.

Based on Microsoft WebTV Networks’ technologies and services, in the future Rogers will deliver additional enhanced television services built on Microsoft TV platform software to its customers nation-wide. These additions will be deployed on next generation Advanced Set Top Boxes and will include services like faster two-way Internet connections and new interactive programming.

“We are delighted to be working with Rogers to bring enhanced TV services to its 2.2 million Canadian customers,” said Bruce Leak, president of WebTV Networks at Microsoft Corp. “We are looking forward to many new developments in the coming months and years to accelerate the deployment of enhanced TV services to consumers throughout the world.”

According to Lee, “It’s hard to say what’s going to work and what’s not going to work, because…it’s hard to ask people to imagine things which they’ve never used or experienced. We’re spending a lot of time in-lab with those guys (Microsoft) testing and watching behaviours. You’ll see basically a lot of different technologies around being able to make television a much more personalized experience.”

He added that cable delivery of the new Interactive TV service will allow customers to get more out of their television. Internet connectivity is ‘always on’ giving consumers an instant path to the Internet, barring any cable problems of course. The easy-to-use wireless keyboard stresses a comfort factor, where there is no need to leave your couch to check e-mail or surf a site for local weather, news and sports as you wait for your favourite show to start, Lee noted.

According to Lee, Rogers is still internally field-testing the Interactive TV product and final pricing has not been finalized, but he believes it will be between $19.95 to $29.95 per month excluding the Digital Choice TV service fee of $10.95 per month. Widespread commercial rollout is expected for later this year.

Separately, as a first step towards expanding the


market beyond the residential user, Rogers has launched its high-speed Internet access product for small business. And, Rogers expects to launch additional business products in the coming months.

Alek Krstajic, vice-president and general manager for


said, that Rogers is aware of the high degree of interest from small- and medium-sized businesses in the high-speed Internet access product.

For updated pricing and more information on both services, visit