Rogers On Demand online to add live streaming, social features

Rogers Communications Inc. is reporting better-than-expected results from its fledging online video portal accessible only by subscribers.

Since launching Rogers On Demand Online in November, the Toronto-based communications firm has seen more than 46,000 users register for the service. These users have logged 1.8 million page views on the streaming video service. Now Rogers is preparing to unroll new features to the beta phase.

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The site has exceeded Rogers’ own goals for the project, according to David Purdy, vice-president and general manager of television products.

“We’ve had more people register than we thought, and had more traffic than we anticipated.”

Subscribers to Rogers Cable, Rogers Wireless, Rogers Hi-Speed Internet and Rogers Home Phone can access the basic level of video content on the site.

It’s a bid by Rogers to support the cable subscriber business model in an era where videos are increasingly being viewed online. The company also hopes to divert user traffic away from file-sharing Web sites and back into a space where they can put eyeballs on advertisements.

Specialty channel AUX.TV is carried on Rogers Cable and was one of the first channels to provide content to the online site. Toronto-based GlassBox Television also offers up its content on it’s Web site. It lends Rogers almost all of its content for the service, says president Raja Khanna.

“The business model in either case is advertising. We can sell our partners advertising on our content wherever it exists.”

Raja Khanna, President, GlassBox

“Rogers’ relationship is pretty critical for us,” he says. “It’s our biggest partner in terms of cable distribution, most people access our brand and consume our content through Rogers cable.”

GlassBox isn’t concerned it will cannibalize its own Web site traffic by sharing the content online, Khanna says. It still gets the opportunity to sell ads off the traffic to Rogers service. Glassbox is even considering giving Rogers its content first, and posting it on their own Web site later.

“The business model in either case is advertising,” he says. “We can sell our partners advertising on our content wherever it exists.”

Rogers is gearing up for the next phase of its beta launch with more content providers and new features.

The service launched with 20 content partners and Rogers has sinced added Alliance Films, Ride Guide Productions, primetime content from Global TV, History Television, and Showcase. It totals more than 1,500 hours worth of video.

The site will soon feature more comments on shows and a ratings system. Another major feature will be the inclusion of live video streaming for certain events such as sports or concerts.

“That’s something we hope to launch very shortly,” Purdy says.

Rogers On Demand service has helped it retain customers and the online offering could help do the same, he adds. Subscribers to The Movie Network who use it with the On Demand service are less than half as likely to stop subscribing to the channel than those who don’t use the On Demand service.

‘The big thing is when you work really hard on a service like this, you want to make sure the customers are reaping the benefits,” Purdy says.

There are no plans to open up the video site to all Web surfers and perhaps get even more eyeballs on ads for now.

GlassBox would be open to different models on the site so long as it maintained control over the advertising on its content, Khanna says. But he feels the video portal’s model is a good one because it protects the subscriber relationship model in the TV industry.

“Cable TV is a dual revenue stream because you pay and there’s still advertising,” he says. “That’s an important one to protect. We’re a big supporter.”

Watch for new content coming soon to the video portal, Purdy says.

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