Cablecos get set to launch Web-based TV

Two of Canada's biggest cable companies are preparing to launch their own Internet-based television services in the coming months. By the summer, both Shaw Communications and its biggest competitor, Rogers Communications, say they will be offering customers the ability to surf...

Two of Canada’s biggest cable companies are preparing to launch their own Internet-based television services in the coming months.

By the summer, both Shaw Communications and its biggest competitor, Rogers Communications, say they will be offering customers the ability to surf the Web and tap into a greater stream of interactive content through their television sets.

With its ability to merge broadcast quality video with the interactivity of the Internet, Web-enabled TV is seen as the Holy Grail for digital content providers. Ultimately, consumers are going to be able to watch television, download movies, music and other programming as well as shop, bank and communicate through their television sets.

According to a study by Forrester Research, North American interactive television will generate an estimated US$11 billion in advertising revenue, US$7 billion in commerce and at least US$2 billion in subscription revenue by 2004. More than 24 million people in the U.S. and Canada are expected to tap into the enhanced broadcasts.

For Rogers, the move is the first major step in its partnership with Microsoft, which last year invested $600 million in the company to help it establish digital TV services in Canada. Shaw, meanwhile, has partnered with San Carlos, Calif.-based Liberate Technologies, which is providing the technology required to upgrade the cableco’s current set-top boxes to allow subscribers to surf the Web.

With the addition of a keyboard, both Shaw’s and Rogers’ current set-top boxes give viewers the ability to surf the Net on their TVs. But Shaw will be introducing a new set-top box that will allow more Interactive-television functionality, says Peter Bissonnette, president of Shaw Cablesystems.

Shaw is aiming to have the service up and running by July or August, he says. In preparation for the launch, Shaw will be promoting the new service using bill stuffers, interstitial television advertising and point of purchase advertising at its retail locations.

‘We see our target as people who don’t already have a computer and may have been intimidated about getting on the Net or people who already have a computer but want to be able to tap into the Net through their TV,’ says Bissonnette.

Rogers would not reveal precisely when it plans to launch its interactive TV offering. However, Mike Lee, Rogers’ vice-president and general manager of interactive television services, says the service should be up and running in the next several months.

‘We aren’t ready to name a date yet, but we will be ready to announce our program in the very foreseeable future,’ he says.

Shaw is hoping to offer the service to its more than 300,000 digital subscribers. When Microsoft made its multi-million-dollar investment in Rogers, it said it hoped to deploy at least one million set-top boxes powered by the Microsoft TVPak software bundle.

Rogers has been hiring people to head up the new media venture. In the next month, the company plans to name a marketing manager for its interactive division.

‘We have to market this service both to our customers as well as to partners and advertisers,’ Lee says.

Rogers has been in discussions with numerous content providers in an attempt to beef up its offering with more interactive content, he says. No deals have been finalized as of yet, says Lee.

Canada’s cable companies view interactive TV services largely as a means of upselling consumers from their current analogue cable service to the more pricey digital cable option, says Jordan Worth, a telecom analyst at International Data Corporation (Canada).

‘Growth in new cable customers is pretty much flat,’ he says. ‘For the cable companies, this is primarily a way for them to enhance their revenue stream.’

Cable companies are anxious to stake their claim to the potentially lucrative interactive television marketplace before the country’s telephone-based Internet providers, says Worth.

This month, Saint John, N.B.-based NBTel announced the launch of VibeVision, its own interactive television offering which provides digital television along with Web browsing, e-mail and a host of other interactive features. NBTel is a division of Aliant, a telecommunications provider that is now majority owned by Canada’s largest telephone company, BCE.

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.