Rogers launches Canadianized Hulu site

Rogers On Demand Online to go live on Nov. 30

TORONTO -- The face of Hulu in Canada is Rogers On Demand Online, an ad-supported online video service from cable giant Rogers Communications to launch nationwide on Nov. 30.

Canadians are currently blocked from watching Hulu due to licensing issues. So Toronto-based Rogers is to launch its broadband portal as an online extension of its local and Hollywood TV and movie content to its 2.3 million cable subscribers.

Dave Purdy, vp of video product management at Rogers, pitched the video service as the first North American online authenticated and ad-supported portal.

"We're no longer in the cable TV business. We're in the video entertainment business," he said as he unveiled a beta version of Rogers On Demand Online Monday night ahead of the national rollout.

Rogers will offer its cable and high-speed Internet subscribers access online to an initial 15 channels which it owns in whole or partly, including Citytv, Rogers Sportsnet, A&E Canada, Bio and G4 Canada.

Cable TV subscribers will be able to watch the broadband content anywhere in Canada where their computer can access the Internet after user authentication.

By the second half of 2010, the Rogers service will be extended to a mobile app, social media sites and live event streaming.

Content distributors to have already pacted with Rogers on its online video service include Warner TV and Michael Eisner's web studio Vuguru.

Purdy said more content deals will be unveiled ahead of the Nov. 30 launch and periodically over the coming year.

The Canadian cabler chose to make the video portal entirely ad-supported and offer no stand-alone subscription for viewing current TV series, library shows and movies untethered to a TV set or VOD platform.

The programming content will be based on current cable subscriptions.

And The Rogers service will also feature only premium TV content as the Canadian cable operator does not want to compete with YouTube and its user-generated content.

Rogers' Purdy said the video portal will feature a range of advertising, from pre-roll ads on kids programming to the same number of ad breaks on primetime series, with only one commercial per break.

The cable operator intends to negotiate with content providers to either sell ads for shows featured on the portal, allow broadcast groups to sell ads on their own, or provide a hybrid service where Rogers sells unsold inventory.

And Canadians will not be able to skip ads on the Rogers video portal, as they can on PVRs.