About a month ago or so, I turned on my Apple TV and noticed that apps for two new Canadian online video services — Shomi (jointly owned by Rogers and Shaw) and CraveTV (Bell Media) — had appeared in the user interface. The app menus are nicely integrated with the Apple TV OS, which makes it easy to navigate the services’ libraries to find content you want to watch, and having these services on Apple’s set top box makes it a breeze to watch shows on your TV screen, which in my opinion is preferable to watching on a laptop or tablet device.
Shomi has what looks like a large library of TV shows. I recently counted about 20 shows listed as “Canadian” and about 135 foreign (mostly American) titles; didn’t count the number of movies but there are lots. Off-hand I’d say Shomi is about on par with Netflix in terms of variety and availability of content, most of which is made up of new-ish TV shows and the type of movies that would appear on TBS Superstation or Peachtree on a Saturday afternoon.
The Crave library is mostly back-catalogue HBO and Showtime content, which is pretty desirable considering gems like The Wire and Deadwood (which you should go watch right now, if you haven’t already) are available in wide-screen HD. I didn’t do an in depth content analysis, but it looks like Crave is all TV, no movies, and although it doesn’t have a section dedicated to Canadian content, I did notice that “Amazing Race Canada” made it onto the roster, so at least there’s that.
While it’s nice to see that the Canadian vertically-integrated companies are dipping their toes into the online stream, I have to say that seeing the Shomi and Crave TV apps next to each other on the screen leaves me a little peeved.That’s because I couldn’t subscribe to both services even if I wanted to, and neither could you.
As it currently stands, each of these services requires a subscription to one or more of their parent companies’ wireline services — for Shomi, you must subscribe to either a cable TV or Internet subscription from Rogers or Shaw (no other network operators at this time), and for Crave TV, you must subscribe to cable TV and Internet service from Bell or one of its “partners” who have bought the rights to distribute Crave TV.
For me, as a Rogers Internet subscriber, I can (and do) subscribe to shomi, but I could not subscribe to Crave TV unless I cancelled my Rogers Internet subscription and signed up with Bell for both Internet service and IPTV. Of course, if I did that, I’d be in the opposite situation — I would lose my subscription to Shomi, and I would also have to purchase an IPTV subscription that I don’t want. Besides — and I can’t believe I’m writing this — I don’t want to switch from Rogers, because I’ve been generally quite happy with their Internet service.
Rogers and Shaw have announced that shomi will be available to all Canadians, regardless of who they choose as their wireline service provider, later this summer. A step in the right direction. But it doesn’t help me, since I already have access to Shomi, and it seems fairly certain that Bell won’t be following down that path with Crave TV any time soon.
I shouldn’t have to switch my ISP just to get access to exclusive content, but that’s what I’d have to do to legally watch HBO and Showtime content, because of the way that Bell has structured its content offerings.
With exclusive content, network owners win and consumers lose. It’s frustrating to see ads all the time for a service I could and would buy if I didn’t have to purchase over $100 per month of additional things I don’t want just to get it, especially knowing that the CRTC is spending so much effort these days trying to break these barriers down at the regulatory level.