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Cable giants launch Canadian Netflix rival

Canadian media giants Rogers and Shaw have unveiled Shomi, a CDN$8.99/month SVOD service launching in November that has plans for kids content and will join the fight for exclusive streaming rights.
August 26, 2014

Canadian media and cable giants Rogers and Shaw have partnered to launch the long-rumored Shomi, a subscription-based VOD service that aims to take on streaming video players like Netflix in the territory.

Original content is part of the plans for the service, although there won’t be announcements for another six months to a year, said Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media, at an event unveiling the product in Toronto this morning.

“It’s definitely on our road map … creating Canadian content is what we do,” he said.

Shomi will roll out in beta at the start of November for CDN$8.99 a month for Rogers and Shaw TV or internet customers. Up to six profiles will be available on each account, with users being able to watch on two devices at once. Notably for Kidscreen readers, Kids will be able to select their own profile that has parental controls in place and children’s content will be part of the roll-out offering. At this time, Rogers would not specify which kids series would be made available.

Announced Shomi programming includes catch-up seasons of TV shows that air on Rogers and Shaw properties such as Modern Family, 2 Broke Girls, Vikings, New Girl¬†and 24: Live Another Day. The companies’ versions of “TV Everywhere” products such as Rogers On Demand and Shaw Go apps will carry live or next-day broadcasts of seasons that are currently on air.

Although there will be some overlap with content that Netflix carries, Barb Williams, SVP of content at Shaw Media, says the broadcasters will use their expertise to acquire content that “Netflix hasn’t been able to get their hands on.”

The Shomi team is open to new distribution partners with fellow Canadian broadcasters, and are in talks with the CBC to potentially carry some of the pubcaster’s programming, Williams added. They are not looking for new equity partners.

At launch, Shomi will have 11,000 hours of TV shows, 1,200 movies, 340 TV series, with 30% of that content being Canadian TV shows and films. The service features a slick user interface that will combine recommendation algorithms with human curation – so consumers could see featured picks from TV personalities like Rick Campanelli, for example.

Netflix has a strong presence in Canada, but Pelley says their research shows that “consumers can sustain two or three or even four SVOD services” in this market.

Rogers is a diverse communications and media company that saw US$12.7 billion in revenue last year. It provides wireless and cable services across the country, is one of the largest print and online publishers in Canada and it owns numerous TV and radio broadcast assets.

While the majority of the company’s revenues (57%) come from its wireless business, cable and media represent 27% and 13%, respectively, meaning protecting its dominance in the TV and entertainment sector is of vital interest.

Last year Shaw saw revenues of US$5.14 billion. The company operates specialty TV networks like Food Network, HGTV, BBC Canada and DIY, as well as conventional channel Global.

With files from Val Maloney

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