Rogers, Shaw Launch ‘shomi’ to Counter Netflix Onslaught

With one in three English Canadians subscribing to Netflix Canada – according to a Media Technology Monitor telephone survey of 2,002 Canadians – Rogers and Shaw have banded together on their own video streaming platform. Called ‘shomi’ (pronounced ‘show-me’) and due to a beta rollout in November 2014, the video streaming service will sell for $8.99/month; the same price as Netflix Canada’s charge to its new Canadian signups.

shomi, which is nearing its debut even as Comcast shifts its strategy for Streampix and Verizon and Outerwall shut-down their own multiscreen SVOD joint venture, will feature 11,000 hours of TV shows from previous seasons, such as Modern Family, Sons of Anarchy, Sleepy Hollow, Shameless, 2 Broke Girls, Vikings,New Girl, 24: Live Another Day, Chicago Fire, The Strain, and American Horror Story. The service will also offer 1,200 movies, and some first-window premieres. Custom picks will be provided to individual subscribers by programming experts as well as by "algorithmic technology." shomi’s content will be viewable on tablet, mobile, online, Xbox 360 and set-top boxes.

The only catch: shomi will only be available to Rogers and Shaw subscribers; at least initially. As a result, the service will not target cord-cutters who have flocked to Netflix Canada; only hopefully stem the tide of cable subs considering making the move to Netflix.

“At beta launch in November, Rogers and Shaw customers will be able to subscribe to the service in the same way that they currently do to all of the services they receive from these companies – and use the same username and password to access shomi as they currently use to access their online services with Rogers and Shaw,” said Marc Dinsdale, shomi’s GM and senior director. “Subscribers will see the service added to their monthly statement in the same way they currently see their cable, Internet, wireless or other services.”

This gap in shomi’s marketing strategy is glossed over during the service’s public unveiling in Toronto and Calgary on August 26. "We've taken the time to talk with Canadians to find out what they want and to create an unbelievable user experience," said Keith Pelley, President of Rogers Media. "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.”

"We keenly understand the media landscape is rapidly changing and that viewers are looking for greater flexibility when it comes to what they watch and how they watch it," added Barbara Williams, Shaw Media’s SVP of content. "shomi is our first step into the new world of content streaming and we're so pleased to be able to bring this made in Canada service to the market."

One of shomi’s biggest selling features is its extremely easy-to-operate user interface. It was created by Ottawa software company You.i Labs, maker of the Kobo Arc tablet interface. You.i’s interactive interface uses "tap-and-hold" submenus, which reduces the number of steps required to select movies. Users can also watch content in a "player window while searching through shomi’s library.

“A great amount of attention and effort was placed on creating a user experience that is more personal and human to our members,” said Dinsdale. “This is reflected in the brand, in the tone of voice throughout the experience, in the content that we have specifically selected for our members, in the user experience that we have created across all devices, and in the selection of technology platforms – all intended to make shomi a simple, understandable and, above all else, pleasurable experience for our members.”

It is impossible to predict just how well shomi will perform against Netflix Canada, and whether Canada two largest cable companies will eventually open up their video streaming service to all Canadians whether they subscribe to cable or not. Nevertheless, shomi’s Marc Dinsdale is optimistic that the new service will catch on. “While we are not in a position to share our membership goals at this time, we have planned for a steady growth in members, content and devices through which shomi will be available, and similarly a growth in the underlying technology platforms and infrastructure to support this growth,” he said.

--Multichannel News technology editor Jeff Baumgartner contributed to this report