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Rogers plans to launch IPTV this year, reposition media business

TORONTO – Rogers Communications has its mojo back when it comes to its wireless business but there’s still work to be done when it comes to rejuvenating cable and media operations, company president and CEO Guy Laurence told shareholders on Tuesday.

That work includes launching a new TV service platform this year and repositioning its media business, Laurence said in a speech at the company’s annual general meeting.

Fixing wireless was a priority for Rogers, Laurence said, and the company worked to achieve this by repositioning its wireless brands to attract its target clients, launching a roaming solution to help solve a top customer complaint and strengthening its network by acquiring Mobilicty and its spectrum.

The company added a net 14,000 post-paid wireless subscribers in the first quarter for a total of 8,285,000, while improving its churn rate in that category for the second consecutive quarter.

Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) now says it will launch its Internet protocol television (IPTV) product before the end of 2016, taking TV online in a move that will offer consumers better search functions and recommendations and an improved overall experience.

The company’s investment in providing high-speed Internet will boost this service.

“Everything’s nicely going in the right direction,” Laurence told reporters after the shareholders’ meeting.

Rogers initially said the service would be ready by the end of last year. It did not give an exact date for the startup this year.

“I wish we could have delivered the product earlier but, you know, it takes time,” Laurence said.

Company spokeswoman Jennifer Kett said in an email that Rogers will be launching a true IPTV product.

“We’re taking the time to get it right and are making great strides in its development,” she said.

Laurence said the change is part of how Rogers plans to overhaul its TV services and added that company is looking to do the same with its money-losing media arm.

Rick Brace, president of the media business unit, has been tasked with the job.

Rogers Media operates 24 TV stations, 52 radio stations, 57 publications and 93 websites.

It’s been a sombre year so far for Canadian news outlets with hundreds of job cuts across multiple news organizations as companies struggle to attract advertisers. Rogers Media announced in late January that it would reduce its workforce by four per cent or roughly 200 jobs.

With this type of systemic decline, businesses like Rogers are forced to take a look at how much they invest in things like publishing, Laurence said.

“You have to cut your cloth according to, you know, your revenues,” he said.

For Rogers, that’s meant putting more money into its digital and sports properties.

However, that doesn’t mean Rogers is looking to shutter any of its publications yet.

“You don’t go there first,” Laurence said.

Right now, the company is focused on looking at every dollar its spending in those areas and finding ways to make that money more efficient.

He believes there is a profitable model for media that exists somewhere between a total paywall and free content with advertisements.

“We just have to keep experimenting until we find it.”

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