Rogers and Shaw today jointly announced a forthcoming service called shomi, a subscription video-on-demand offering that will launch in the first week of November and feature 11,000 hours of TV shows and 1200 movies for $8.99 a month.
“We’ve taken the time to talk with Canadians to find out what they want and to create an unbelievable user experience,” said Rogers Media President Keith Pelley. “They told us loud and clear — they want all the past seasons of the most popular, current TV shows and they want it to be easy. shomi takes the guesswork out of finding what to watch, acting like a new-age video clerk serving up all the best content based on individual viewing habits.”
Looking for the Shomi Content List?
But what many Canadians may have not told Rogers is that they have already checked out. A growing number are using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access U.S. services such as Netflix and Hulu. “Content not available in your country”? No problem. VPNs mask user’s IP addresses so that the services believe a user is actually accessing them from the United States. Netflix has been basically silent on their use, and the services seem to exist in a legal grey area here.
“I don’t think they’re an obvious copyright infringement,” Ottawa-based law professor Michael Geist told The Huffington Post earlier this year. “If it gets bigger we may see efforts to restrict it. I guess my view would be: so long as it remains a relatively small part of the market it will fly below the radar screen even if people are aware of it,” he added.
VPNs are just one part of the equation. There are also more “black hat” alternatives, such as torrent sites. A user browsing a service such as The Pirate Bay or IsoHunt can download “Modern Family”, “Sons of Anarchy”, or “Sleepy Hollow” -the first three “exclusive” titles mentioned by Shaw and Rogers in their press release- minutes after they air.
A little more detail on the content of Shomi has since emerged (The Sun posted a list that included Scandal, The League, Wilfred, The Americans, Tyrant, New Girl, Revenge, 24: Live Another Day, Shameless, Vikings, Sleepy Hollow, 2 Broke Girls, Black Sails and Da Vinci’s Demons), but the offering does not yet provide a full list of TV shows and movies a prospective user can browse.
Shomi might be able to compete with the severely limited Canadian iteration of Netflix and with people who are uncomfortable with torrenting, but it is no match for the American version of Netflix, which boasts more than twice the content of the Canadian one.
According to website Netflixable, which tracks the content available on different versions of Netflix, there are 4460 movies and TV shows available on Netflix Canada and 9547 movies/shows on Netflix USA. That’s not hours of programming. That’s different programs.
Canadian Netflix has about 3-million subscribers in Canada, but many are simply using the service as a backdoor into the U.S version, where they can access shows such as “Dexter”, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “30 Rock”. A recent poll by The Media Technology Monitor found that 32% of anglophone Netflix subscribers are now accessing U.S. content. What’s clear from the short initial list of programs provided by shomi is that the service is looking to, at least in part, fill the gap between the Canadian and American versions of Netflix.
The battle that shomi will face will be significant because it is unlikely that more than a small percentage of Canadians would be willing to pay for two streaming services. That means an apples-to-apples comparison will be made by those who want a streaming service. Increasingly, the service will be compared not just to Canada’s version of Netflix, but also to the American version.
Below: City TV’s “Gadget Guy”‘s ebullient review of Shomi. (City TV is owned by Rogers Media).