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Videotron picks Comcast technology for IPTV; follows Shaw, Rogers

An IPTV remote control.

Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Following the lead set by fellow Canadian cable operators, Videotron Ltd. plans to license technology from Comcast Corp. to launch a new, Internet-based television service.

The Quebecor Inc.-owned cable company said on Tuesday it will partner with Comcast to deliver IPTV (Internet protocol television), upgrading its existing legacy cable platform to a more user-friendly and faster service that can integrate live TV programming as well as on-demand video and Internet streaming options.

Videotron has been mulling its options for months and its decision comes well after Shaw Communications and Rogers Communications also announced plans to work with Comcast.

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Shaw wrote down $55-million in development costs associated with IPTV in 2015. Rogers gave up on its own efforts to build an IPTV product in-house late last year, taking a charge of $484-million in the process. Shaw launched BlueSky TV, which uses Comcast's X1 technology, in January, while Rogers says it will roll out its new television product in early 2018.

Videotron did not provide a timeline for its own launch on Tuesday, saying only it is pleased with the news. "As our IPTV solution is currently in development, we don't have further comments to share nor details on when it will be launched," the company said in a statement.

Cable companies have been under pressure to offer improved television products to compete with telephone operators. Legacy telephone networks weren't built to deliver video signals, but telecoms started investing in fibre-optic upgrades to improve Internet speeds and finally got into the TV market about a decade ago using IP-based technology.

Canadian telecom leaders BCE Inc. and Telus Corp., which were previously restricted to satellite offerings, could finally sell TV to more urban customers and go after "bundled" customers, selling Internet, home phone, TV and wireless services packaged together. Home phone and TV services have been in decline, but to win or keep home customers, cable companies have been under pressure to respond with their own improved TV platforms.

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