In a bold joint venture, Canada's two largest pay-TV providers -- Rogers and Shaw -- are teaming up to launch a subscription video-on-demand service that will compete with Netflix in the Canadian market.
Dubbed shomi, the new VoD service will be available from November for C$8.99 per month and will include more than 11,000 hours of TV episodes and 1,200 movies. The service will also provide personalized video recommendations through a combination of data-driven technology and input from human experts. Subscribers will be able to access video content on set-tops and the Xbox 360, as well as on the web, tablets and smartphones.
Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) and Shaw Communications Inc. aren't the only ones experimenting with subscription on-demand services. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) continues somewhat quietly to market Streampix as an over-the-top offering for subscribers at a price point of only $4.99 per month. The service is bundled for free with higher-tier service packages.
At the same time, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has partnered with The Chernin Group to invest in online video businesses, and Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) has promised to launch an OTT video service before the end of the year. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), meanwhile, offers Redbox Instant by Verizon. However, at $8 per month, that service only includes movies and video games. Redbox Instant subscriptions are also tied to DVD rentals available through the company's in-store kiosks. (See Redbox Falls Flat in Streaming Space.)
On the technology front, shomi will rely on the user interface company YOUi Labs Inc. to power its UI for mobile devices using iOS and Android. In an interview, You.i told us that its You.I Engine compiles the interface down to one code base for multiscreen distribution, which allows it to deliver performance levels significantly above what competitors can offer. You.i was a winner at the CableLabs summer conference in 2013 for "best new idea" for its gesture-based UI framework. Gesture control for the primary television screen is not part of You.i's contribution to shomi as the company is only responsible for the video interface on tablets and smartphones. (See Motion Control UI Scores Big .)
Additional information from the shomi press release indicates that the service includes enhanced features including "trailers and factoids for movie titles," and allows customers to access content with up to six different user profiles per account. The service will be available initially in beta to Rogers and Shaw TV and Internet customers. Rogers and Shaw say that shomi will operate as a separate entity from both companies and will maintain an independent management structure.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading