Shomi is a new streaming service launching in Canada, funded as a joint partnership between Rogers and Shaw Cable. The service is intended to compete with US based streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, but unlike those two, with its Canadian roots can secure a lot more content thanks to the two cable companies being involved. This access to content makes Shomi a serious contender within Canada, and they are promising to lock down plenty of exclusive shows that Netflix and Hulu just can’t offer in Canada.
The other thing that’s important to the Shomi product is the people behind it, and the people using it. Rather than relying exclusively on phantom metrics to power their suggestion engine, the system is being built as a ‘streaming service for movie/TV show lovers, by movie/TV show lovers.’ There will be special celebrity playlists, content curated by power users, eventually the system will be flushed out to include individual/friend recommendations – adding social networking within the service itself (coming in the first half of 2015).
A Shomi account will allow you have to have 6 independent user accounts – this means that a family of 6 can each have their own profile, their own watched movies, their own recommendations and their own Shomi experience. Additionally, you can have two people concurrently streaming on a single account. Access to Shomi will be available in a couple ways – first off, naturally you can access it by Tablet, computer or smartphone – they have an iOS and Android app ready to go. Secondly, you can access Shomi through your existing digital cable service from Rogers or Shaw, which means you can stream without consuming any data. Some content will have an expiry, but they will display whether that content expires within 30-90 days.
I had an opportunity to test out Shomi at the Hazelton Hotel on Friday evening, which involved a brief information session followed by heading back to my room to launch the service on an iPad. Shomi is definitely ready for the spotlight as the system works rather well. There were no crashes and the controls and display are intuitive to use. There’s no nonsense on the screen, just the content you need to find the shows or movies you want. The current offering will make a lot of people in their 20’s and 30’s happy, as there’s some rare cartoons and television shows on there that will take you back to your youth. They even have more recent content like Dragon’s Den, Louie and my favourite show, Spartacus. Movie wise, there’s a lot of stuff from the 90’s and 00’s, and again a few newer films. Naturally, as they are just launching the content right now is a little limited but as they add more it will certainly improve (for fans of the greatest movie ever made – Twister, you will not currently find it on Shomi).
Now, the Hazelton Hotel, while super luxurious, may not have been the right choice for a streaming service to make it’s debut – the WiFi at the Hazelton was terrible at best. As a result, Shomi had to stream in lower quality than I would have liked, and there was a significant amount of ‘Buffering’ pauses while I was watching Gone in 60 Seconds. In doing a test with other devices to watch YouTube, had a similar experience, so definitely not on Shomi – but frustrating nonetheless.
Overall, Shomi is a pretty solid user experience. In terms of content, it’s lacking at the moment but that’s to be expected from a new service. They will have 14,000 pieces of content in the first year, and 350 television series. With the financial backing of both Rogers and Shaw, they have a war chest to continue building the platform – I just hope they don’t take customer service queues from their parent company. Shomi is entering a public beta phase on November 1st, and comes with a $8.99/month cost. Follow them on Twitter @ShomiCanada.