While there has been excitement in the U.S. over networks embracing video streaming, in Canada, Shomi, a new service from Rogers and Shaw, is about to get its servers rolling.
Earlier this month, HBO announced it was launching a stand-alone digital offering next year; CBS also recently launched a streaming service at a cost of $5.99 (U.S.) a month. Hulu and Amazon Prime are existing services that have yet to cross the border, but are doing well in the U.S.
Netflix chief executive officer Reed Hastings has long said that his company expects all broadcasters and networks will eventually embrace the streaming model, and these new services seem to show that the floodgates are opening.
At a media preview last week, Shomi representatives did a walk-through of their service, which seemed more like a dip into the stream than a full-blown Netflix competitor. There are similarities, however, particularly in the way content is displayed and organized in themed collections.
“Shomi at its heart is a video streaming service for Canadians, built by entertainment lovers,” said Marc Dinsdale, general manager of Shomi. “We want to be people’s entertainment wingman. We want to make finding your favourite movie as enjoyable as watching it.”
Its focus is on episodic television. That makes up to 80 per cent of the service’s library, which at the beginning will be 340 series, with 14,000 episodes and titles totalling more than 12,000 hours of content, much of it exclusive. Thirty per cent of the content will be Canadian.
“What we want to do is expand the idea of entertainment and have some concerts or exclusive web-produced content,” said Marni Shulman, head of content at Shomi. “The other piece of it is that (the library) is constantly growing. This is constantly evolving. We’re always buying and adding new content, so just because it isn’t there day one doesn’t mean it’s not going to be there days, weeks, months later.”
To that point, last Friday Shomi announced an exclusive content deal with Warner Bros., including online Canadian rights for series including 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, Shameless and Falling Skies. Most of the TV series will have episodes available up to the most recent complete season.
“We really believe Shomi is complementary to the ecosystem,” says Shulman. “Current immediate episodes are on live television, then current season catch-up is either the proprietary website like City.ca or a Go app, then we are prior seasons starting at the previous season.”
One wrinkle with Shomi is that a few shows the company is acquiring will be exclusive to the service. The WB deal also includes the upcoming series from Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas series, iZombie, which will appear day-and-date with its broadcast airing. Shomi will be the exclusive place in Canada to watch the series.
Shomi’s content library is attempting to go for quality over quantity (the library is still dwarfed by the one belonging to Netflix). And while Shomi wants exclusives, there will also be some duplication with Netflix, Dr. Who being an example.
Shomi’s beta version is expected to launch during the first week in November, but that is just for existing Rogers and Shaw customers. If you watch online, it will affect bandwidth, but both telecom companies are also making the service available through set-top boxes (which, since it will come through cable, will not affect data but could potentially cause regulatory issues. Bell has recently complained to Rogers about their exclusive GamePlus app, which has features only available to Rogers customers).
Shomi executives say it is only a matter of time before the service is available to all Canadians, and note it is a separately run company from Shaw and Rogers.