TELUS Facebook TV – Is the ‘Next Frontier of Social Networking’ Really a Repeat?

By: Lee Rickwood

March 15, 2011

Anybody remember Drop The Beat?

More than a decade ago, the TV show ran on CBC for, like, one season! But it was groundbreaking for more than one reason.

The first show to really deal with urban music and the emerging hip-hop scene, it told the story of a fictitious radio station, and the lives of its staff, crew and listeners.

drop the beat

Drop The Beat ‘invented’ converged TV – but all I got was a T-shirt!

But it was also one of the first-ever ‘interactive TV shows’ — thanks to the ahead-of-the-curve developers at what was then a small Toronto digital media company called ExtendMedia.

While watching the show on a Microsoft WebTV system (there’s another ‘remember this one’ for ya), the on-screen TV image was enveloped in a colourful graphical user interface.

It displayed additional information about the show and storyline, the actors and soundtrack. The system also allowed for a live running commentary among viewers. We could share text comments live on screen, and interact in real-time as the show unfolded!

It was convergence writ large, promising the mash-up of computer and television.

But it’s taken more than a decade for anyone to take the next few steps on that path laid down back then.

Now, TELUS is doing some serious walking and talking about convergence.

The Canadian telecom is offering an enhanced IPTV service built around Facebook, and adding the feature to its popular Optik TV package.

Nimoy Speaks for Telus

Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy Speaks for Telus’ Optik TV and Facebook app

TELUS has also teamed up with veteran futurist, space explorer and Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy as the spokesperson for what’s called “The Next Frontier of Social Networking.”

It combines TV watching and social media connecting.  Through the “Share my View” feature, for example, you can watch TV and post about what you’re watching on your Facebook Wall, and you can bring your complete Friends list into the picture.

Of course, you can always ‘Like’ or ‘Dislike’ what you’re watching.

You can also write messages on Friends’ walls, and look at Facebook photo albums while watching a TV show.

“IPTV is the future of television, and with Optik TV the future is here at TELUS,” said David Fuller, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer.

Optik TV is the company’s IPTV service, which now includes the Facebook feature (available via download and sign up process.)

Normally, reports like these have to say something like, ‘available only out west, in BC or Alberta.’ That is the regulated service territory for the company, after all.


Anyone who’s driven up Spadina in downtown Toronto may have noticed the huge TELUS 100 Mbit sign, on a soon-to-be-sprouting Cityplace condo development. It is an unusual offer, yes, but a friendly sales agent there told me that TELUS will be available through a special arrangement made between the building developer and the service provider.

Telus sgn

Imagine the Possibilities – Optik TV in Toronto!

Not having a couple hundred grand to check the offer by buying a new condo, I noted with interest if nothing else the fact that TELUS is available in Ontario!

And, eventually, the new app TELUS’ Optik TV is running will be available to other platforms and other TV providers – or something very similar will be.

The IPTV Facebook app was created by an Ontario-based development company, ES3, a company that specializes in development for the Microsoft Mediaroom platform used by TELUS – and many other IPTV providers in Canada, including Bell, MTS Allstream, and SaskTel.

At a recent Microsoft Annual Mediaroom Developer’s Conference, awards for innovative new apps for the platform were handed out, and ES3 was the winner.

That set-top box app, called Interactive Workout, lets users create a personal workout routine for themselves, and to follow videos that demonstrate each exercise. Users can also set reminder times to exercise and receive a daily healthy recipe using Mediaroom.

“Mediaroom offers a fantastic developer environment for TV applications and this contest was a great opportunity to show how creative we could be in designing new and exciting TV experiences,” Doug Edwards, ES3 CEO, said when accepting the award.

interactive workout screen grab

Interactive Workout is a Microsoft Mediaroom set-top box app from ES3

Now, those exciting TV experiences are themselves getting healthier and more robust.

The TV screen is now, or soon will be, a multi-zone presentation environment. Different boxes or sections of the screen will provide streaming images, text and graphics, user generated content and additional advertising messages.

Then, add to the converged TV and social networks the power of addressable advertising through set-top boxes and IP addresses, and a completely new interactive environment is created.

As Fuller added: ” We are committed to enabling a truly connected home, offering new ways for customers to stay connected and multitask while enjoying television. We plan to launch a number of applications this year, taking advantage of the power of Internet-enabled TV. ”

Telus Optik TV with Facebook

Telus Optik TV and Facebook are converging with new app from ES3

TELUS Optik TV customers need only their current Facebook account and subscription to Optik Internet to take advantage of the Facebook application for TV. It is an eight step process, with e-mails providing a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for sign-up. The Facebook app on the TV is password-protected, so different people sharing one television would all have separate sign-ins linking to their own Facebook accounts.

“Fascinating,” as Mr. Spock would say.

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submitted by Lee Rickwood

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