Rogers, Shaw Take Aim at Netflix

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.)

Get the latest updates on new OTT video services by visiting Light Reading's OTT video content channel.

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

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pcharles09 8/27/2014 | 6:05:27 PM
Re: Shomi the money! @Liz G,

I'm not sure if you're a sports person but do you see a lot of sports programming options (like ESPN, MLB, NBA,...) in the Roku? Or do you choose what you access?
pcharles09 8/27/2014 | 6:04:03 PM
Re: Shomi the money! @MikeP688,

I almost bought a Roku but didn't when I realized I had a Smart HDTV. The only catch is that some of my 'preferred' content is not linked to the TV. So I have to go through other avenues to watch sports & other things. But I recently saw that Apple TV has a lot to offer. Was just wondering what the feedback is from people that have it. Might be worth the one-time investment.
dwx 8/27/2014 | 1:50:56 PM
Re: Shomi the money! Completely agree.  I tell people all the time there is no reason for services like Netflix to even exist.  If the cable/telco providers had just gone to a similar model with a decent UI and bundled it with Internet or even linear video subscriptions I don't know why people wouldn't just go with it.   They have offered basically the same content via VOD (not counting newer NF original content) it's just the means to access it has been terrible and pricy compared to NF.  
KBode 8/27/2014 | 11:40:43 AM
Re: Shomi the money! It historically seems to me that these kinds of ISP-run services never really take off, as the cable operators are unwilling to be disruptive enough on price or service for fear of cannibalizing existing TV revenues.
Liz Greenberg 8/27/2014 | 1:15:21 AM
Re: Shomi the money! @pcharles09 I don't have much experience with Apple TV so I won't attempt to make a comparison.  I think that some of the Apple users may be able to weigh in with their opinions.  I just upgraded to the latest Roku after one of the initial models and while the interface hasn't change a lot the video quality has vastly improved.  Maybe somebody knows what codecs each product is using and the like.
MikeP688 8/27/2014 | 1:12:45 AM
Re: Shomi the money! Although your comment was directed to @LizG, I wanted to "chime in" to note that out of the key Players, it appears that ROKU represents the best value that's out there today.   I wonder if you concur with it as we see the evolution of this ever changing world.   
pcharles09 8/27/2014 | 12:32:37 AM
Re: Shomi the money! @Liz G,

Do you think Roku is better than Apple TV?
Liz Greenberg 8/26/2014 | 6:13:38 PM
Re: Shomi the money! I love Roku!  I haven't heard of LiveStation until now.  I will check it out.
MikeP688 8/26/2014 | 5:43:05 PM
Re: Shomi the money! The closest is ROKU with some 1100 Apps that could be configured over the Web.   I am also ever so fascinated by Live Station. As I am working away on initaitives today, I am listening to a live feed of Franc24 over LiveStation.    The possiblities are limitless if we indeed drive it from the grassroots.    
Liz Greenberg 8/26/2014 | 5:27:01 PM
Re: Shomi the money! If enough attempts are made, eventually the mold will be broken and very interesting results will emerge...whether they be more like Aereo or Shomi or something else, it will be great if the next generation is not forced to pay for things that they don't want or need.
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