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Douglas Edwards, CEO of ES3, shows the Facebook app his company made for Telus. (Iain Marlow/The Globe and Mail)
Douglas Edwards, CEO of ES3, shows the Facebook app his company made for Telus. (Iain Marlow/The Globe and Mail)

Telus hopes TV, Facebook union will prove a big draw Add to ...

Douglas Edwards is standing in front of a screen displaying the scrolling Facebook profile updates of his friends. The screen, however, is not his computer. And it's not his smart phone. It is, in fact, playing a large CBC News program.

"This is the most valuable real estate in the home," says Mr. Edwards, the chief executive officer of an application developer based in Pickering, Ont., as he uses a remote to navigate his Facebook profile on a large flat screen TV in Telus Corp.'s Toronto headquarters.

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And with that, Facebook, the world's most popular social networking site with more than 500 million users worldwide, comes to Telus's Internet protocol TV (IPTV) service. As of Wednesday morning, more than 300,000 Telus IPTV customers will have access to Facebook on their TVs - a service Telus executives hope will lure more customers to its ongoing and expensive rollout of its TV service in Western Canada.

The application, summoned with a bit of navigating, connects viewers to their Facebook accounts on the household's main screen - allowing users to view friends' status updates, set up picture slideshows or give thumbs up, or down, to the show they're watching. Channels continue to play in one corner of the screen as users browse the L-shaped application, which pulls and pushes information from the users' Facebook account.

"We really believe that this proves that IPTV is the future of TV," David Fuller, Telus's chief marketing officer, told several reporters in a product demo the day before the service was to launch.

Though Mr. Fuller has met with Facebook Canada's executives, the app is unofficial: It has no Facebook logo and doesn't have the look or feel of the Website or the official Facebook mobile application. Mr. Edwards and Mr. Fuller said Facebook representatives saw the app, had no queries, and did not place any restrictions on them - such as banning the logo.

The app is also not exclusive: Mr. Fuller said in a later interview that Mr. Edwards' company, ES3, is free to sell the app to whoever it wants - including Bell Canada, which is rolling out an IPTV service in Toronto and Montreal.

In fact, Mr. Fuller views an app ecosystem emerging for IPTV providers - in a similar vein to mobile developers who offer apps to various handsets running a similar operating system - and said he would be willing to talk to Bell down the line. A "Santa Tracker" app, which Telus ran on its IPTV service over the holidays, was originally run by AT&T in the United States.

As Vancouver-based Telus continues to invest in its IPTV network in Western Canada, the pressure is increasing on Shaw Communication to upgrade their own cable network. In previous interviews, Shaw president Peter Bissonnette said the company was on the cusp of bringing similar functionality to their vast cable system -- but analysts have pointed out that doing so is likely to be extremely expensive.

Telus, on the other hand, is operating an entirely new network that - while extremely expensive to rollout into new neighbourhoods - is capable of being upgraded overnight.

 

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