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Videotron Trots Out Tru2way

Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. has signed a deal to buy and support tru2way-based multi-room HD-DVRs from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) and sell the devices through the MSO's retail network, a move that gives the common set-top middleware and headend platform its first official footing in Canada.

The largest six "incumbent" U.S. MSOs are currently wiring up their headends for tru2way, with recent indications from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) that the nation's largest would complete that job by the year's end. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU, Comcast Wired for Tru2way by Year's End , and No Penalties for Missing Tru2way Date.)

But tru2way's future in Canada looked bleak in October when an exec with Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) told attendees at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo that tru2way might not factor in as Rogers pursues the development of an advanced interactive platform and new user interfaces that can incorporate Web-like technologies. (See Rogers Seeks Tru2way Alternative .)

"We are looking for an alternative [to tru2way]," Rogers SVP of engineering and network operations Dermot O'Carroll said at that show's opening general session. Unlike U.S. MSOs, Canadian operators aren't saddled with an Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that requires them to use separable security in set-tops, which is typically handled by CableCARD modules.

Videotron was not immediately available for comment Thursday morning to say when the boxes will become available, but the MSO is "committed to meeting growing consumer needs for personalized media by offering tru2way-enabled devices," MSO SVP of engineering Daniel Proulx said, in a prepared statement. "A strong collaboration between Videotron and Samsung will result in an interoperable and more abundant home entertainment service."

Taking things a step further, Videotron, under the "letter of agreement" announced today, said it will offer the Samsung boxes through the MSO's retail network. Videotron operates Le SuperClub Videotron, a movie and console game sales and rental chain with 200 locations in Quebec. The stores also operate under the names Microplay and Jumbo Video.

As for Samsung, the deal gives it another sales outlet for its cable boxes to North American MSOs. In the U.S., it has shipped more than 400,000 tru2way-based boxes to Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC). Samsung has also had four tru2way LCD TVs certified by CableLabs , but has yet to sell them at retail.

Videotron, which primarily uses digital boxes from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), has about 1.75 million cable TV subs, including 1.04 million taking the MSO's "illico" digital TV offering.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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