This week I got a preview code for a new product Rogers was launching, Rogers on Demand Online. (the same week they laid off a significant number of middle managers). They are working well to move the TV experience online, but could do better in moving the online experience to TV.
The concept is to take the On Demand experience which Rogers has on their cable systems (which often crashes my box) and move it online. My friend Ben Lucier has done a great job summarizing the experience and I’d agree with almost all his impressions of the system.
It’s got a lot of the features that I have on my on-demand box on my TV – so simulates that experience well. Where I think it misses the mark is moving the online experience to TV. Let me point out a few examples of ways the system could combine the online experience with the TV experience to make the system truely kick-ass, as well as solve some security issues.
One of the things that caught my eye in the list of TV shows is the category “Last Chance”. In the online world, there’s no such thing as Last Chance. If you make a show available, why wouldn’t it be available forever? This is the world of the long tail – and users expect to find everything from the just released, to an old episode of Sesame Street from 15 years ago, if you plan on bringing it to the system.
The other feature I thought could improve the experience, and make it more like my online experience is to allow comments and a social aspect. The shows are buit into a screen which shows some other relevant and related content below, but why not let the users get involved and comment on the show itself. It might not have to appear directly (I wouldn’t want to read something which gives away the surprise ending) but having a button to comment on and interact with other watchers of the show would make me feel more involved.
Connected to this was my thought: “Hey, I should give my password out to a bunch of people and let them share in my on-demand experience.” It would seem to present a problem for Rogers if they are only going to make this available to Rogers subscribers. But the easy way around that problem is to build a set of social features into the site, or even connect it with a FaceBook login. The more social features they build in the less likely users will want to share their accounts, because the account will become part of them. The more personal info I attach to the account, the less likely I’m going to share the account, in the same way I’d never share my FaceBook account with a friend.
All in all, it’s a great move forward for Rogers. This morning I watched part of a West Wing episode on my Rocket Stick (yes, it’s working now) and both that product and this shows that Rogers is ready and willing to cannibalize it’s current products and customers for the sake of new technology. They have become more adept at this in recent years – willing to take the risk. It’s impressive and can show how nimble this behemoth still is.
Update: The Rogers on Demand Twitter folks (yes, Rogers is rocking the social media these day with twitter people) pointed me to this site which shows some of the upcoming features. Upcoming features are what they say they are – upcoming. But at least they are thinking about it….