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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jabailo 8/26/2014 | 1:12:24 PM
What Does A Portal Do These Days? I've noticed more Canadian content on Netflix.  Shows like the scify drama "Continuum" (recommend).   Some of these are produced by Showcase, the Canadian equivalent of HBO, Showtime.   So I can imagine they would then want to control distribution as well.   Why not?   I keep asking, in today's cloud world, what does a portal do?  What is the added value of a centralized repository when the original creator can put his content on a generic cloud service complete with DRM, payment systems and so on.  I wonder if the centralization of portals will rebound back to the old web model of one site per information source.

Liz Greenberg 8/26/2014 | 1:18:49 PM
Shomi the money! Mari I think that this will be a very interesting beta trial.  The one advantage that Netflix has over this and other potential competitors is that it is NOT tied to any internet or cable services.  As long as you can access it by any means it is available.  The minute that it is tied to other services the proverbial "cord" still exists.  In my mind, the closest competitor at the moment is Amazon video.   It is still good for viewers to have more choices and this may still fit the bill in many cases.
MikeP688 8/26/2014 | 3:03:12 PM
Re: Shomi the money! The key is access for sure.   But the fact that at least there is a move to moneitize the movement to "pull the plug" is gratifying.  The idea of paying $ 100+ for stuff that you don't see half the time is really disconcerting. :-(
Liz Greenberg 8/26/2014 | 4:39:49 PM
Re: Shomi the money! I agree Mike...let's hope that they can break the connection between their own access plans and the Shomi service.  Otherwise it will be $108 for a lot of stuff that you still don't care about.  I just wish that they would let us do a la carte TV so that I could keep sports and about 5 other channels and eliminate everything else.
MikeP688 8/26/2014 | 5:04:09 PM
Re: Shomi the money! It is tragic that they all seem to be one step ahead than the rest of us.  At least there is a sense of realization that the dynamics of the ground are changing.  Aereo was an extreme example and its' bold experiment failed (as has been chronicled here in LightReading).    May we live in interesting times. 
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.
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 | 6:13:38 PM
Re: Shomi the money! I love Roku!  I haven't heard of LiveStation until now.  I will check it out.
pcharles09 8/27/2014 | 12:32:37 AM
Re: Shomi the money! @Liz G,

Do you think Roku is better than Apple TV?
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.   
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