Volume 90, Issue 75

Thursday, February 06, 1997



Watch whatcha want when you want it

By Donna MacMullin
Gazette Staff

Imagine being able to turn on the ol' boob tube and watch exactly what you want – exactly when you want.

From new and classic movies, sporting events, concerts, old sitcoms and soap operas, the possibilities seem endless and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is currently considering licensing for a new system to make it all possible.

"Companies would have a data bank of films and programs and [the viewer] would decide [what to view] by phoning in, so the program can be downloaded though a broadcasting receiving apparatus any time they want," said Lise Plouffe, communications advisor for the CRTC.

The Video-On-Demand system is expected to run programs offered through various pay-per-view networks across Canada and selections would be distributed through satellite, terrestrial distribution or fibre optic link.

Ellen Davidson, communications director for Viewer's Choice pay-per-view said the VOD system will be similar to the programming currently offered by the network. "The concept is based on the current success of pay-per-view, but there would be a lot more channels offered," she said. "There is a proven market for this – [VOD] is a response to current demand."

"We're keen to launch Video-On-Demand because it is a very logical progression for our pay-per-view service," added Lisa de Wilde, president of Viewer's Choice. Viewer's Choice currently serves over a half-million Canadian households and is majority owned by TMN Networks Inc., which also operates The Movie Network and Moviepix.

Billing for the service will depend on what the consumer chooses to order and would be similar to current rates, Davidson said.

Plouffe said the commission will be holding a public hearing March 17 to consider applications for broadcasting licences and decide how national pay TV programming undertakings with VOD services will be distributed.

Viewers might not want to jump off the couch yet though. The CRTC is presently soliciting applications from networks, however it is not expected the VOD system will be common in Canadian households for a number of years as the commission also intends to consider the potential impact of VOD on existing programming.

"[The CRTC] has not reached a conclusion with respect to the viability of such a service and we are not necessarily authorizing it at this time," Plouffe said, adding household trials will be held over the next few years.

Davidson also said she did not want to speculate on when the system would be offered. "It largely depends on if and when it is approved, but [Viewer's Choice] is currently working on it."

A number of pay TV services across Canada have already applied to the CRTC for the high-tech system and plan to offer different types of programming in English and/or French.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997