Market Insight

Canadian cable giants Rogers and Shaw launch Netflix competitor, Shomi

August 28, 2014

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Canadian cable TV market leaders, Rogers and Shaw, intend to launch a subscription video competitor to Netflix, dubbed Shomi, in November 2014 at a price of $8.99 a month. The service will initially be available to Rogers and Shaw Broadband and TV customers.

The subscription service is meant to complement the operators’ TV programming by providing access to past seasons of current shows and movies, as well as other exclusive content. Shomi will offer 340 TV series (14,000 episodes and titles) and 1,200 movies at launch, via tablets, mobile, PC/Mac, through Microsoft’s Xbox 360 as well as cable set-top boxes. Featured TV programs include Modern Family, Sons of Anarchy, Sleepy Hollow, and American Horror Story. Additional features of the service include trailers and background information regarding each movie title. Shomi will offer some first-window premiers, likely due to Rogers and Shaws’ rights deals with FX and 20th Century Fox respectively, which will bring some exclusivity to its catalogue.

Users can have up to six profiles per account and can watch on two devices and a set top box simultaneously. The service will feature curated programming recommendations alongside automated personalized recommendations.

While Shomi is a joint venture between Rogers and Shaw, it will operate independently with its own management team and structure.

Our analysis

According to a study by Canadian communications regulator CRTC, as many as 4 in 10 Canadians regularly watch TV programming over the internet, but more tellingly is that of the third of anglophone Canadians who subscribe to Canadian Netflix, 35% access the US version, via which shows such as Dexter, 30 Rock, and Always Sunny in Philadelphia are available while not available via the Canadian version of Netflix. Netflix Canada usage has increased to 32% amongst anglophone Canadians, up from 25% in the spring of 2013, according to the CRTC study. The majority of subscribers utilize the service for TV (rather than movies).

For Shomi to be competitive with Netflix it needs to focus on two things:

  • Catalogue—both relevancy and size
  • Accessibility—the range of devices through which consumers can access the service

The most important point of competition with Netflix will be catalogue. If Shomi can offer a competitive catalogue to Netflix then it should fare well. In keeping with Canadian content regulations on broadcasters, 30% of the service’s content will be Canadian which should appeal to some subscribers.. However, the main focus of Shomi’s catalogue should be the shows Netflix Canada’s users are seeking by going through Netflix US.

Expanding accessibility will also help Shomi to compete with Netflix, as one of Netflix’s strengths is device availability. Netflix is currently available on:  Roku, Xbox (360 and One), PlayStation 3 and 4, TiVo, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android, Windows, and iOS devices and online (PC). According to CRTC’s findings, of the 39% of Canadians watching online TV:

  • about 43% plug their computer or laptop into a TV thus using the TV screen instead of computer screen to view streamed content;
  • another third use gaming consoles to watch streamed content, so expanding beyond the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One and PlayStation consoles will be important for the new service; and
  • another third of Canadians use their tablets to stream subscription content.

Shomi has a distinct advantage however, of being offered on set-top boxes at its inception whereas Netflix is currently not available on any set-top box in Canada. Offering the subscription service on set-top boxes is largely preemptive and helps address the issue where households who, without Shomi integration on set-top boxes, might drift in the direction of Netflix at a later date. Set-top box integration should ease accessibility for subscribers, although this largely remains to be seen as there has been little released about the user interface of the service. One reason Netflix is favored is for its easy UI—interface, content discovery, and its recommendation-driven focus. 

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