Bell Canada prepping TV play


TORONTO -- Bell Canada, the country's largest phone giant, on Tuesday said it was set to enter the Canadian TV market, delivering signals over existing phone lines.

But George Cope, Bell Canada president and chief operating officer, told the Scotia Capital Telecom & Tech Conference that the phone giant will not specify a launch date for the service to avoid giving competitors time to set up defenses.

Cope said that the company already has invested heavily in a fiber optic network to offer a range of broadband services, including Sympatico-Lycos, which carries about a third of Canada's online traffic.

He added that Bell Canada wants to leverage the growing DSL network to offer TV services in major domestic urban markets, but insisted the phone giant will not compete against TV market rivals like CanWest MediaWorks and Rogers Communications on price point alone.

"We want to add value and compete with the some pretty good TV providers," he told the analysts conference. "We want to be the alternative provider, a differentiated operator. We want to make sure our product hits that level."

Bell Canada parent BCE Inc. is no stranger to TV. It launched Bell ExpressVu LP, the direct-broadcast satellite service, in 1997 and recently reduced its stake in Bell Globemedia, which operates the top-rated CTV national TV network and a string of cable channels, from 68.5% to 15%.