August 26, 2014 1:37 pm

What is ‘shomi’ and how does it work?

Watch above: Shaw and Rogers are launching a new video streaming service, aiming to take on Netflix. Mike Le Couteur explains.

TORONTO – Canadian web users will soon have another video streaming service to choose from.

Shaw Communications and Rogers Communications have teamed up to create “shomi,” an on-demand video streaming service that will give Canadians access to thousands of movies and TV shows.

Shomi, which will be available to Shaw and Rogers TV and Internet customers in November, will cost $8.99 – the same as soon-to-be competitor Netflix.


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What can it do?

Just like other video streaming services, shomi allows users to access a database of over 14,000 movies and TV shows like Chicago Fire, Modern Family and Sons of Anarchy.

At launch, shomi will boast 11,000 hours of TV shows — including 340 series — and 1,200 movies. Each TV show will include all of the past seasons, right up to the most current episode.

To compare, Netflix Canada has about 4,000 titles, but users often complain that the content is not as good as Netflix’s U.S. service. Sons of Anarchy, for example, is one of the titles offered to U.S. subscribers but not Canadians.

One shomi account can have up to six user profiles, so each family member can keep track of their own shows. Parents can also set up profiles for children that feature parental controls.

WATCH: Rogers Media President Keith Pelley and Shaw Media Senior VP of Content Barbara Williams answers questions about the new “shomi” streaming service

READ MORE: Rogers, Shaw launch ‘shomi’ video streaming service

But shomi offers a unique spin on how it will suggest titles for users to watch. Unlike Netflix, which uses algorithms to evaluate what you might like to watch based on the content you have already streamed, shomi will have entertainment curators that will provide human suggestions to users.

Keith Pelly, president of Rogers media, said the handpicked titles will provide a new spin on content curation that competitors don’t have.

“It’s that human level on top of the algorithm that makes the user experience unique,” Pelly said during a launch event Tuesday. “You can’t create emotion with code.”

The companies liken the experience to the “staff picks” stickers you used to see on movie rentals, in hopes that users will experience titles they wouldn’t normally chose.

According to Pelly, eventually shomi will feature picks from special guests and celebrities.

What devices is it available on?

At launch, shomi will be available through an app on iPad and Android tablets and select iPhone and Android smartphones.

Users can stream content online through the shomi website and Shaw and Rogers TV customers will also be able to access their accounts through their set-top digital boxes.

Xbox 360 users will also be able to access shomi through their consoles.

Users can watch content on up to two devices at a time – but there is no limit to how many people access shomi through their cable boxes.

Different content, different features

Senior vice president of content for Shaw Media (parent company of Global News) Barbara Williams said, shomi will have “a whole range of content that Netflix has not been able to get their hands on,” including a slew of Canadian content.

Both Williams and Pelly said they are open to the possibility of gathering more content from other Canadian providers.

READ MORE: Canadians spending more time watching video online

But shomi also has some interesting features that may set it apart from the rest.

Rotten Tomatoes reviews are available on each show page and users can browse for movies based on mood instead of genre – one example, “bad date movies.”

On the shomi mobile app, users can tap and hold on a title to reveal a menu of options, including the ability to watch a trailer for the movie – a feature that Netflix is missing.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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