Video on demand has a new player in town

Thursday, July 21st, 2005

Marke Andrews

A Vancouver company has jumped into the video-on-demand market, offering specialty channels and movies to anyone with a broadband Internet connection.

Broadbandtv Corp., located in downtown Vancouver, claims to be the first service in the country to offer TV on demand via the Internet, going so far as to offer the first three months of viewing free to customers. The customer would have to buy the Broadbandtv player, a device similar in size to a DVD player, which hooks up to the Internet and the television. Broadbandtv Corp. ( sells the player for $399, although it is offering it for $299 during its start-up period. Shahrzad Rafati, president and CEO of Broadbandtv Corp., says the company, whose slogan is “Make Your TV Smarter,” is targetting viewers whose specialty tastes are not being addressed by existing cable or digital television services. Program categories are news and business, animation, children’s, sports, lifestyle, foreign language, movies, music and after dark.

“Our customers are people who are tech-savvy and want to watch video over IP [Internet Protocol], and some are people who want to watch extreme sports or content that is not available on TV,” says Rafati. “Others are people who don’t like conventional stuff, who want things like surfing, golfing, movies and newscasts in different languages.” Thus far, the company’s foreign-language fare consists of latelelatina, a Latino-themed channel, and AdvenTV, the latter service broadcasting in the Turkish language. Rafati says she is currently negotiating to get Al-Jazeera, the Arabic news channel.

Among the 11 sports offerings are sailtv, devoted to nautical programming and Varsity TV, dedicated to high school sports.

The company has a half-dozen “after dark” adult entertainment choices.

Broadbandtv currently offers 75 channels. Some of these can be found on existing cable and digital services, including A&E, CNN, The History Channel and BBC. Customers choose what they want to download from the Broadbandtv interactive guide. The process is similar to using a VCR. When using Broadbandtv, viewers download the programs in real time, then watch them later. A Broadbandtv player holds 200 hours of programming. The basic services costs under $13 a month.

Rafati says her system “is not a replacement for TV, it’s a complement to TV.” But cable TV networks may see this as a threat. Shaw Cablesystems has its own video on demand system. Shaw on Demand operates through the cable system. A call to Shaw Communications president Peter Bissonnette was not returned.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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