Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rogers & Shaw: Shomi the money

Everyone loves Netflix. And what's not to love? For $8 a month, you can watch as many streaming movies and TV shows as your poor eyeballs can handle. Yes, Netflix addiction can cause you to bust the monthly bandwidth cap from your Internet service provider, and yes, it can be a chore to sift through kajillions of movies in a futile search for something decent to watch. And if you're Canadian, it bugs you that American customers have a much larger library to choose from. Welcome to the First World, everyone.

But there's no denying why Netflix has quickly become such a darling, and why it has succeeded in radically changing how we consume, and pay for, content. Call it the modern world equivalent of a cheap thrill.

So, of course, if you're a cable or satellite operator - or a telecom company that provides such service - you tend to view Netflix with equal parts envy and white-knuckled fear. Those cushy monthly bills you've been sending out for decades - the ones where you force customers to pay more money than they want so they can subscribe to a bunch of bundled channels that they won't watch, all so they can get the relatively few channels that they do want - are at risk as customers realize on-demand viewing is significantly more cost-effective and convenient than waiting around for Thursday at 8 p.m. to watch The Big Bang Theory.

Chord cutters, those folks who cancel cable and satellite TV entirely and get all their TV completely online, are a direct threat to the future of conventional cable and satellite distribution, and the carriers won't give up without a fight.

Enter shomi. It's an online streaming service that, outside its deliberately lowercase branding, looks, smells and feels a lot like Netflix. Canadian carriers Rogers and Shaw partnered up on it, and yesterday they launched it to much fanfare. Rogers and Shaw are two of the largest carriers in the country. They're ISPs. They're TV distributors. They own TV channels. They sell wireless phones and they build and own the networks over which all of this stuff flows. If they don't replace their old TV distribution business with something new, online, over-the-top upstarts like Netflix will be happy to eat their lunch. It's akin to leopards changing their spots, dinosaurs avoiding extinction, and the Titanic turning soon enough to avoid the iceberg, all rolled up into one.

Will it cause Canadians of all stripes to kick their Netflix addiction in droves and try the new guy?

Not so fast.

I wrote about it for Yahoo Canada Finance:
Why the Rogers, Shaw shomi streaming service won’t stop Netflix in Canada
Your turn: Are you a Netflix fan? Why/why not? Would you switch?

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