Rogers to offer PVR in October, HD PVR by Christmas, HDOD soon, too


TORONTO - Rogers Communications Inc. founder and CEO Ted Rogers said last week Rogers Cable will offer a high definition PVR box to customers before Christmas this year.

Talking to reporters during Rogers Sportsnet's official launch party at SkyDome on Thursday, the RCI CEO, responding to a query from, said more than just HDTV is coming from Rogers Cable, which is currently the only conduit delivering the Sportsnet HD signal.

Proud of his company's history as a company at the forefront of technology when it comes to video and communications, then after saying Rogers Cable will have "15 to 20 HD channels" by the end September, and then that it will launch DVR in October, Mr. Rogers then added, "by Christmas, we'll have HD PVRs. Sixty percent of the PVRs we're buying will be HD."

Now Mr. Rogers has been known to be a bit more enthusiastic than realistic when discussing new technology, especially when it comes to its arrival or launch date (or perhaps he's just pushing executives to move more quickly).

So, this morning, chatted with Mike Lee, the man most directly in charge of this stuff as Rogers Cable's v-p product development and management. While his boss jumped the gun on the company's PVR announcement, Lee confirmed that Rogers Cable plans to have the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000 - its PVR solution - available to the market "by late October," he said.

As for HD PVR, "we will have the ability to offer HD PVR to our customers by the end of the year," said Lee. "The expectation is that by year's end we will have HD PVR."

That would make Rogers one of the first cable companies in North America to launch the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000HD set top box which combines the personal video recorder technology (PVR, or digital video recorder DVR - to some) with a high definition TV decoder, able to record HD content.

While the manufacturer has not yet begun shipping those boxes, it plans to begin doing so this fall, said an SA spokesperson.

The Explorer 8000 has an 80-gig hard drive capable of storing anywhere from 40 to 50 hours of standard definition programming. However, when it comes to HD programming which consumes five to six times the amount of disk space available in the box, says Lee - consumers will have to be more judicious about what they record and what they keep. "It's a challenge in regards to storage capacity," he said.

Plus, content owners have so far been loathe to release HD versions of popular movies - which is a big reason why early Canadian HD adopters like The Movie Network, Viewer's Choice and Citytv have had relatively few titles to show HD-equipped homes.

"There's so little HD programming available, the demand to be able to record it is very high," said Lee, who added Rogers will support the content industry's standards for encryption and conditional access. He thinks its only a matter of time before the content owners get used to the idea.

"On the standard definition side, they've been dealing with that type of risk for a long time," he added. "(But) studios are just not ready to deliver HD movies."

So, while we're talking all about HD, what about HD on demand (HDOD), Lee was asked. "We'll have something to talk about on that soon as well," he said.

After Christmas?

"I didn't say that," he added. "It's time that cable made a point of its difference between wireline distribution and satellite distribution."

As for all of the HD channels, it's likely that Rogers Cable will have in the neighborhood of 15 total by the end of September, with more to come as Christmas approaches.

That likely means Rogers is close to a deal for Bell Globemedia's TSN HD and Discovery HD, both of which are now only available on their corporate sister Bell ExpressVu. Add to that the new Toronto 1 station, which will launch in HD on September 19th and CTV, which has applied for an HD transmitter license and will have "100% of their prime time schedule in HD" this fall, said Mr. Rogers, and the number begins to approach 15.

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