Canada’s video-on-demand-over-IP (VOD-over-IP) market got a little hotter this summer with the debut of two distinct offerings by vastly different companies. MTS TV, the TV-over-IP offering from Manitoba’s incumbent telco Manitoba Telecom Services Inc., began rollout of its video-on-demand (VOD) in Winnipeg in June. The next month, a smaller Vancouver-based provider, BroadbandTV Corp., announced the availability of its VOD-over-IP in 50 U.S. states and Canada. While MTS TV uses the telco’s very high bitrate VDSL technology to provide three separate video channels plus Internet connection headroom over an 18 Mbps pipe, BroadbandTV relies on its cable and telco broadband partners to be able to deliver the required bandwidth, and has partnered with Vancouver-area providers such as Shaw and Novus. Both services use digital rights management solutions to secure the content so it’s valid for a set period of time, but can’t be duplicated or transferred. Both also offer timeshifting and use set-top boxes to receive the content, but BroadbandTV’s box also has the ability to act as a digital personal video recorder (PVR) holding up to 200 hours of programming. For MTS TV, on-demand programming was a natural follow-on to its digital basic service, says Roy Sherbo, VP at MTS TV. "It allows us to offer almost anything on demand, really," he says, adding the company also revamped its interactive TV options at the same time as the on-demand launch. MTS’s basic offering allows users limited options to pick their own channels by signing up for theme groups customized to their specific interests. The on-demand service further refines the choice, says Sherbo, by providing programs that are "only in the network when customers want to watch them." MTS TV also has partnerships with Fox and Alliance Atlantis in place to provide first-run movies, and plans to add more studios in the future. While MTS TV’s VOD service builds on the growth of the firm’s basic TV subscription base, BroadbandTV instead targets viewers interested more in lifestyle and recreation-focused niche markets. "We enable virtually any provider of video content the opportunity to reach our television subscribers anywhere in the U.S. and Canada," says Shahrzad Rafati, president and CEO of BroadbandTV. The firm’s content includes independent films, extreme sports, wine and cooking channels, yoga sessions, and other outside-the-mainstream programming. Because big-name U.S. networks are not yet available on BroadbandTV, Rafati says it’s not positioned as a substitute for regular cable service, but rather a complement. "It’s for people who want niche programming, or for tech-savvy people who want to try a new technology," she says. Subscribers to any IP-based television service can also sign up for BroadbandTV as an adjunct to their existing package. "We don’t just distribute content to our own hardware platform, but to any hardware platform that embraces video-over-IP technology," Rafati says. Plans for the future include agreements to bundle the service’s billing with that of the local broadband access provider’s, for unified payment of both Internet access and broadband TV service – a convenience that MTS already offers. While MTS may be the furthest along of all the Canadian telcos in terms of adoption and implementation, others have designs on the market as well: SaskTel has had a TV-over-IP service available for some time, while Aliant rolled its offering out last month. TELUS Corp. received the green light from the CRTC for a national video-on-demand service composed primarily of feature films in September 2003 (Broadcasting Decision 2003-453), but has yet to launch it.