After more than a year of speculation that Rogers Communications Inc. was working on its own video streaming service to take on Netflix Inc., the Toronto company finally revealed Tuesday its new service Shomi, a joint venture with its Western Canada cable rival Shaw Communications Inc. Set to launch in the first week of November, Shomi will initially only be available to cable or Internet subscribers of the two companies as part of a test period.
Here are five things to know about the new service.
Who can get Shomi?
As of now, only Rogers or Shaw television or Internet subscribers will be able to sign up, but the companies say they’re already in discussions with other television distributors and hope to make it more widely available at launch. Executives say they expect their “beta” testing period to last six to 12 months and will evaluate different pricing and packaging options as they go. It could eventually be available to anyone, regardless of whether they are customers of any specific television or Internet provider.
What does it offer?
Shomi will be heavy on TV at launch when it is set to feature 11,000 hours of television from 340 series and 14,000 episodes. It will also include 1,200 movies and about 30 per cent of the content will be Canadian. While Rogers has invested heavily in sports rights, live or replayed sporting events are not part of the plans for Shomi, although it will feature sports movies and documentaries.
Rogers and Shaw are heavy buyers of media and while the service will feature some overlap in content with Netflix, the companies say they have won exclusive rights to much of the content. They want to convince potential customers that Shomi is different enough to make it worth subscribing to not instead of, but in addition to Netflix. Executives say their market research suggests Canadians could be willing to subscribe to up to four such services.
In their announcement today, the companies highlighted the option to watch past seasons of titles such as Modern Family, Sons of Anarchy, Sleepy Hollow, 2 Broke Girls, Vikings, New Girl and American Horror Story. Netflix has had huge success with its own original series House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Creating programs specifically for Shomi is “definitely on our roadmap,” said Rogers Media president Keith Pelley, but he noted it wouldn't be immediate.
How much will it cost?
Shomi will initially be priced at $8.99 per month, exactly the same as what Netflix now charges for its standard membership after raising its price by $1 in May (users already paying $7.99 were grandfathered into that price for two years). This is a “suggested” price, meaning new television or Internet providers that sign on could set a different price for their customers.
Why is this service launching now?
A “Canadian version of Netflix” has been a long time coming and even Shomi is only launching as a test version in November. Rogers and Shaw said they felt they had to get into the space before it was too late. “There comes a point where you just have to get at it,” said Barbara Williams, senior vice-president of content at Shaw.
How will consumers be able to access it?
Shomi will be available on five platforms at launch – tablet, mobile (iOS and Android), online, Xbox 360 and and set-top boxes. Those who access it through their cable boxes will encounter more basic graphics, but they won’t have to worry about it counting against their Internet data cap for the month.
The purple-branded interface is similar to what users of Netflix are used to, with new content highlighted near the top and recommendations tailored based on your stated preferences and past viewing habits. Rogers and Shaw say they are banking on bringing a human touch to the service with expert-curated libraries and more personal feel.
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