From Rome to New York With IPTV Love

Toronto, Canada-based ShifTV operates OverseaTV, an IPTV platform and delivery company — currently Canada’s only independent one of its kind. Ethnic Channels Group, also based in Toronto, is expected to launch a competitive service in the near future.

Rome, Italy-based RAI-2 TV network received
in New York via OverseaTV's IPTV STB

Comparing OverseaTV with New York-based NeuLion’s IPTV platform, the latter sees itself more as a technology company and is more comfortable attending technical trade shows such as NAB in Las Vegas. The former prefers markets such as MIP-TV, which, on this occasion could even be called M-IPTV.

OverseaTV’s set-top box (STB) is sold to subscribers and, in the near future, might be given for free if customers commit to a minimum of 12 months of service. The uniqueness of their STB is that it comes with a one-sheet instruction manual, and is consumer-friendly.

The picture below, taken off a TV set screen in VideoAge’s New York offices, was shot with the STB receiving Italy’s RAI-2 channel, with a DSL connection then operating at 242 kbps (due to multiple DSL usage). The quality of the images was equivalent to a digital, standard-definition picture and better than analog cable TV.

Compared to NeuLion, OverseaTV’s STB, which uses Microsoft’s video-compression technology, is much simpler to operate, but switching between channels is faster with NeuLion’s system, which uses an MPEG-4 compression standard. With OverseaTV’s STB switching up or down from one channel to another takes about six seconds. If moving from one of the lower channels to a higher one, it is better to go to the menu first, with the whole process taking 15 seconds. According to company officials, OverseaTV’s new STBs will have better channel-switching than any other device and VoD capability. NeuLion’s STB is bigger and has a built-in WiFi antenna, while the decoder from OverseaTV (measures 26.5 x 15.6 x 4 cm and weights about 1 kg) comes with a wireless key USB adaptor. The STB is manufactured by Softier, a U.S. and Israeli company, one of 25 major producers of IPTV set-top boxes.

Packages offered on OverseaTV include channels from Italy, Germany, the Middle East, Greece and Russia (each line-up is branded individually, such as TVItaliana, TVRossiya, etc.).

In addition, ShifTV carries religious and specialty alternative channels such as Sky Angel from the U.S. Through ShifTV, Sky Angel is now able to serve Canada, wherein resides the world’s third largest Evangelical population. Sky Angel attempted to broadcast its service to Canada a few years ago, but was stopped by Canadian Federal regulators. Through IPTV, Sky Angel was able to transmit into Canada without restrictions.
OverseaTV offers a 24/7 toll-free helpline in English and Russian and operates a local call center for specialty channels. ShifTV currently retransmits over 100 channels throughout North America (NTSC areas).

“Subscribers with high-speed Internet access can simply plug their television into a set-top box, connect the box to their high-speed cable/DSL, and enjoy the programs that they are truly interested in,” explained Morey Chaplick, CEO of ShifTV, who started the company in 2005 together with David Fuss and Jonathan Cohen, all from Toronto. Chaplick is also the president of Canadian Scooter Corp, importer of Italy’s Vespa.