With the early December launch of 13 new high-definition
channels, Canadian MSO Rogers Communications
has boosted the number of its linear channels to 106, more than the 100 or so
available on its satellite competitor, Bell TV, according to senior director of
product management for the video platform D'Arcy Hunt.
Over the last year, Rogers
has been steadily expanding its HD offerings, which numbered about 60 to 65
channels in late 2008, but wanted to make a big push for the holiday season.
"We chose to add a bunch of channels together in December
because December and January are typically when we see most of the HD sets
being purchased as well as the HD set-top box deployments," Hunt noted.
Unlike the U.S.,
developed a fairly robust retail market for set-tops, which consumers can
either buy or lease. "We use major retail partners like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and
Sears to sell boxes directly to consumers when they are buying the TV," Hunt
Over the last year, Rogers
has also been beefing up its high-def on-demand content and now is approaching
500 titles, or nearly 1,000 hours, Hunt said.
The expansion of the HD content was not only important for
attracting new, Hunt added.
"We have 1.6 million digital households and the last public
number we released was that over 600,000 have an HDTV
in their home," he said. "So it was very important to our existing customers."
While the new HD channels put Rogers
ahead of Bell in total HD channels,
the MSO does not stress the linear channel count in its marketing campaigns.
"We have surpassed Bell,
but we have tried not to talk about the total number of [linear] channels
because all the research has said it is not really relevant to the consumer,"
Hunt said. "So we are now promoting the fact that anytime a Rogers customers turns
on the TV they have four times the choices in HD [from the linear channels and VOD
platform] to watch versus our competitor even though we do now outnumber them
from a channel count perspective."
Rogers has 860 MHz
systems in about 90% of its footprint and the MSO
deployed switched digital technologies to free up bandwidth both for more HD
content and for its rollout of DOCSIS 3.0, Hunt said.
Rogers chose switched
digital because it was less costly and "was the least customer impacting way of
getting more capacity" compared to other alternatives like analog reclamation,
Looking forward, Hunt says they plan to continue to
aggressively add linear and on demand HD content in 2010.
"We are looking to continue to expand our HD offering to
include free prime time VOD content in HD and we are always looking at major
sporting events such as the [February] Winter Olympics in [Vancouver]
noted. "We expect to provide consumer access to HD and SD Olympic coverage with
our on demand service 24 hours after broadcast."
The MSO is also looking to add more ethnic content in HD, an
area that has been ignored by a number of multichannel providers. One of the 13
new HD channels added in December was a 24 hour Mandarin and Cantonese service