New TV brand is Telus’ latest shot in battle for B.C. – Alberta consumers

Every week Techvibes republishes an article (or two) from Business in Vancouver. This article was originally published in issue #1076 – June 15 – 21, 2010.

Telus Corp. (TSX:T,T.A; NYSE:TU) debuted a new Internet-protocol television brand last week in what is the latest volley in the Vancouver-based telecom’s intense battle with Calgary-based Shaw Communications Inc. (NYSE:SJR) for television subscribers in B.C. and Alberta.

Telus is deploying a major marketing campaign across a number of media to promote its new Optik television brand, which was initially called Telus TV when it was launched in February.

As well as out-of-home and online and social media advertising, the company is deploying a fleet of mobile stations that will travel to malls and community events where consumers can test Optik TV.

“I’ve been with Telus for seven-and-a-half years, and I would say this is the most significant campaign that we launched in that period,” Telus CCO Joe Natale said during an interview last week.

Optik, which had garnered 200,000 subscribers as of mid-April, allows TV viewers to record three programs simultaneously using a single personal video recorder (PVR) and to play the recordings on any TV in their house that has a digital box.

The offering is built on Microsoft’s Mediaroom platform and is distributed over Telus’ fibre-optic network, which gives it interactivity and navigability similar to the Internet.

Natale said the company will build additional features into Optik.

For example, it’s adding technology that allows Optik subscribers to program their PVR through a mobile phone.

Natale took a subtle jab at Shaw, Telus’ main competitor in Western Canada, in referring to cable companies’ monopoly on TV.

“If you look at the history of cable TV, there really hasn’t been much choice over the last while,” he said.

“If you go back and look at the price of cable TV over the years, it has gone up substantially. We’re bringing competition to the TV market like never before.”

Optik starts at $23 per month when bundled with other services.

The marketing push behind Optik is another signal that Telus is increasingly focusing on providing home-based services beyond telephones.

It has roughly 1.2 million Internet subscribers today compared with 26,000 in 2000.

Eastern Quebec will be the next region of Canada in which Optik TV is available, but it may take a while for Telus to penetrate other Canadian markets.

The company is anticipating that continuing advances in wireless technology will make it easier to deliver Internet-based TV to other regions where its fibre-optic network is not as developed as it is in eastern Quebec, B.C. and Alberta.

“As 3G plus [wireless technology] moves to the next evolution, to 4G, we’re going to see double and triple the amount of wireless bandwidth,” said Natale.

“When you have that much wireless, underpinned by fibre optic, then you can offer more innovative solutions over wireless.”