New triple play service provider ushers in TheSkinny

By Kate Lysakowski
Produced by Tom Cunningham

It has long been recognized by Canadian consumers that when choosing a service provider to cater to their triple play needs — internet, cable and home phone — the options are limited. The three major players within the Canadian market, Bell, Rogers and Telus, offer similar packages at almost indistinguishably similar rates with few variations to set each apart. It really makes no difference to the customer which of the three gets the job, aside from which company has the most appealing offer; one that invariably causes the consumer’s bill to spike after the initial promotion has expired..

In 2013, however, a new player joined the Canadian telecom market: VMedia. Operating from its head office and data centre in Toronto, VMedia offers all of the expected internet, TV and home phone features of the large players, along with some exciting, new technological innovations that give consumers more bang for their buck at a significantly lower everyday rate. Delivering a powerful punch against their competition, VMedia is aiming to give the three giants of the Canadian telecom industry a run for their money.

The two founders of VMedia, George Burger, a senior content industry executive who had previously consulted for internet service providers such as Distributel and Teksavvy, and Alexei Tchernobrivets, a software and service developer with a focus on content and digital media, were brought together to form a new IPTV initiative for Globalive, an affiliate of WIND Mobile, Canada’s fourth largest mobile operator, which at the time was operating WIND’s wireline business. Shortly after,  WIND pivoted away from wireline to focus exclusively on its mobile phone service. They parted as friends, but George and Alexei, knowing they were on to a good thing, moved forward to develop and launch the business. Burger “recognized the value and unique appeal of Alexei’s IPTV service to consumers seeking independent internet service alternatives” and so VMedia was formed in 2012, with Burger as the Senior Advisor and Tchernobrivets as the Chief Executive Officer. Since then, with the full endorsement of the CRTC, VMedia has grown into a company that provides service to more than 18,000 clients across the country and continues to gain momentum daily.

One reason for VMedia’s striking success is that it stands alone as the only independent provider of triple play services soon to be available across Canada. Their introduction of cutting-edge approaches to conducting IPTV business within the industry illustrates VMedia’s ability to stay ahead of the trend, which only serves to fuel the desires of a market itching to attain access to the very latest and greatest technologies available. The innovative VBox, the first of its kind set-top box and media player, provides conventional television access as a full alternative to cable. Unlike cable, but similar to Bell Fibe TV and TelusOptik, the signal is obtained through a home internet connection from VMedia’s head end to the VBox in the home.

The VBox itself, in its Android media player capacity, makes it possible for VMedia subscribers to access online content such as Netflix, YouTube, music, games, and social media as well as hundreds of apps directly through the user’s television. The VBox makes every TV smart.

VMedia offers up to 40 TV viewing packages comparable to that of their competition, but has also introduced  the option of creating a unique custom package through their exclusive UChoose store, where customers can choose to subscribe to the individual channels of their choice. The ability to customize a package to this degree is something no other service supplier in Canada, outside of Quebec, currently offers.

Another significant difference between VMedia and other providers is the introduction of the “skinny basic package.” Otherwise referred to as TheSkinny, it’s a slimmed-down, highly affordable, basic package that has been mandated by the CRTC and must be introduced by all carriers no later than March 2016.  The stipulated maximum price for such a package is capped at $25 per month, which puts VMedia ahead of the game both in availability and price, offering the package for $17.95. The CRTC has also mandated the introduction of extensive stand-alone and pick-a-pack options and with the UChoose store, this makes VMedia what Burger calls “pioneers of the pick-a-pack option” in Canada.

These innovations enhance the ability  of customers to conveniently put together their desired package lineups without being forced into a big, bulky, all-in-one basic package. VMedia caters to a vast majority of Canadian consumers exploring their service options, but Burger believes that the UChoose store will particularly resonate with the multicultural community, explaining “they have very defined interests and we facilitate access to anything they want to watch, including programs from their home country, either through our channels, or those they may wish to access over the top through the VBox media player function”.

According to Burger, there are three key elements that drive the business of VMedia: price, choice and innovation. VMedia offers consumers more than their telecom competition for a fraction of the price. “We are typically 20 to 30 percent cheaper, especially when dealing with our packages, than the incumbents,” explains Burger. At its core, VMedia is a technology-based business, a content and digital media development company. “The VBox,” Tchernobrivets explains, “is merely one commercialization of the work that the company has been doing.” VMedia’s innovations like its VCloud-TV-PVR function, the VBox’s smooth, intuitive interface, and responsive search and favourites features, are designed to keep their subscribers engaged and looking to VMedia as their complete content delivery solution.

One sure sign that VMedia is on its way up in the Canadian telecom industry is their word of mouth growth; admittedly, the young company does not, as of yet, have deep enough pockets to shell out for massive advertising campaigns, and relies primarily on their strong media presence and their satisfied clients to spread the word.

VMedia’s lean, bootstrap operation of approximately 70 employees has aggressive plans for growth within the next two years, both through organic means as well as through mergers and acquisitions. Despite the fact that in the near future, the telecom giants of Canada will offer similar skinny basic packages in accordance with the CRTC-mandated regulations, VMedia admits that they are not worried about losing their key advantages any time soon. As they continue to meet anticipated targets, they can now refocus their efforts on building and improving an already thriving business. As CEO, Tchernobrivets explains, “Everyone needs technology; the advantage is, we have our own.”

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