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He Said/She Said: What do you think of Shomi?

Join Greg and Diane every Monday as we debate what’s on our minds. This week, what do you think of Shomi?

He Said:

Now that Shaw/Rogers has made Shomi (I refuse to spell it with the small “s” as the two cable companies hope people do) available to all Canadians with Internet access, we thought it would be a good time to revisit the streaming site and all that it offers. As a Rogers subscriber—and the cable bills to prove it—I’ve had Shomi’s beta for months.

Have I used it? Not really. I’ve checked out back episodes of The Twilight Zone and A Young Doctor’s Notebook and Other Stories but that’s it. I blame that on the fact I’ve had Netflix for a couple of years and it comes immediately to mind over Shomi. It’s just not top of mind, so I can’t honestly pass judgment on the service yet. I can tell you that people in my sphere of influence still talk about Netflix with no mention of this Rogers/Shaw partnership but maybe that will change as time goes on.

What I can say is that I’m happy Shomi (and, eventually, Bell Media’s CraveTV) is available to Canadians with the Internet. Just having another option is a step forward into the 21st century.

Likewise, along noteworthy American and international programs like Sons of Anarchy, Transparent, The Last Man on Earth, The Office, Mr. Robot, Peaky Blinders and Empire is a whack of Canadian content spanning CBC, Rogers and Shaw’s libraries. Sitcoms include Seed, Package Deal, Mr. D, and 22 Minutes while more serious fare like Cracked, Between, Lost Girl, Vikings, Haven, Remedy, Rookie Blue, Continuum, Murdoch Mysteries, Republic of Doyle, Heartland, Being Erica and Emily of New Moon butt up against Dragons’ Den. That’s a wide range of homegrown content available and a nice snapshot of the (mostly) quality stuff on the air in this country.

Licensing issues continue hamper the most recent seasons of these series being offered, but you can still get a nice head start on those first few seasons before chasing them down on conventional cable (or via illegal means). I’d love to see the rights to older Canadian series like King of Kensington, DaVinci’s Inquest, Traders, Bizarre, Ready or Not and North of 60 approved so they can be offered on Shomi too.

She Said:

I’m a newly minted Shaw internet customer after a recent move, not because I was eager to go with a company that included Shomi but because Shaw cable internet had worked better for me in the past than my recent Telus ADSL. But a nice bonus is a month’s free trial of the new-ish streaming service. And then they opened it up to all Canadians days later so it’s not really a bonus anymore, but whatever.

CraveTV offered media a trial back at launch, and I checked it out then, but until the service is available to all I can’t recommend it or not. I will say I’m looking forward to their January (supposedly) public launch, and curious what their price point will be — it’s hard to imagine they’ll stick with $4/month when it’s a standalone service, yet they will be the last entrants in the current Netflix/Shomi/Crave battle of the streaming services.

Back to Shomi … I may have gotten more use out of it in a couple of weeks than Greg has so far, because I’m test driving it to see if I want to pony up the $8.99/month it would add to my internet bill — increasing that now-$30 bill by … um, carry the 1 … a large percentage. Would I stick with both Shomi and Netflix? No. They both fill the same niche in my media-watching life, catching up on series I hadn’t seen in first run and watching back catalogue comfort films. I don’t need to see any specific show or movie on either service — I’ll pick the one that has the most I want to watch and the best user experience.

The first thing I noticed about Shomi is that I had seen a lot of the offerings already … on Netflix. There is some crossover, particularly with the CBC shows and some older movies. Shomi has some current-ish American shows I can’t watch anywhere else, though not the kind of international fare Netflix offers.

The second thing I noticed is that Shomi doesn’t work well without a set top box. I got frequent errors trying to use Chromecast until I figured out the trick of starting the video on my phone or laptop first and then casting. It makes for a clunky viewing experience. I also found the user interface somewhat non-intuitive — for some shows it was much easier to figure out how to play the trailer than the first episode, yet I always want to dive straight into watching.

Another odd thing is that the menu will say there are two seasons of, say, Transparent or Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, but when you click on the series it turns out “Season 0” is extras such as trailers and interviews. Yeah, that’s not a season. There is no such thing as a season zero. It feels like their engineers didn’t have the technical skills to master how to include those without having the app call it a season.

And what are we, cavemen? The app doesn’t do autoplay of the next episode, so unlike Netflix we can’t accidentally binge watch until we’re catatonic and get the “are you still watching?” message of shame. With Shomi we actually have to make a conscious choice to watch the next episode and let our better judgement interfere with our couch potato tendencies.

As is often the case when we talk about CanCon, I think Greg is the glass half full person and I’m the glass half empty, cracked, and I cut my lip person. I was surprised at the small number of Canadian series. CBC seems to lend out non-exclusive streaming rights to whoever wants them, so I can watch many of those shows on Netflix or on CBC’s own website or app. Given Shomi is a Shaw/Rogers partnership, I would have expected to see more Shaw/Rogers shows.

Going forward I expect we will. Networks in Canada don’t own the shows, the production companies do. And streaming rights would have to be negotiated separately if they weren’t originally part of the licensing deal, which they wouldn’t have been for older shows. But Shomi’s offerings highlight just how few original series Rogers and Shaw currently have.

So the crucial verdict: will I pay for Shomi? I can see myself periodically adding it for a month at a time and then cancelling once I’ve binged the shows I want to watch, just for the shows unavailable (legally) elsewhere.  I’ve already binged Catastrophe and checked out Transparent and Girlfriends’ Guide. I’d already watched Fresh of the Boat and sampled some of the other exclusives, and I intend to check out Mr. Robot, but so far I wouldn’t give up Netflix’s superior user experience and their originals and exclusives for what Shomi has to show me so far.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and partner at TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from countless programs. Survivor winners, Donald Trump, Jerry Bruckheimer ... he has interviewed (literally) hundreds of TV people over the course of his career. He is a past member of the Television Critics Association.
Greg David
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8 thoughts on “He Said/She Said: What do you think of Shomi?”

  1. i’ve tried to find out if netflix has my fav shows, new eps,but failed, like murdoch amaz race can, and the scifis,can’t find a total list or search function

    1. another issue is that if you buy a Smart TV such as the Vizio 32 Inch,i have.
      Outside of The Weather Network,no Canadian media apps such as Shomi or CraveTV.
      Netflix is strictly the American version only.
      This is where Shaw,Rogers,Bell,CBC among others have to talk to smart tv makers to get thier services onto these sets…
      it’s not just laptops,cell phones,tablets or desktop computers where people are going to watch or stream to
      this is why Shomi and CraveTV need to expand beyond just thier niches.

  2. Shomis main problem is that video streaming is bad on any device you use it on. Android buffers web based works a bit better and the set top interface is terrible and many shows are sd only. Netflixs and crave have a better selection of shows too

  3. I have Shomi and I like it, if only for Black Sails and the West Wing, but it is pretty decent. The experience on a Shaw Gateway box is AWFUL. My Mom has Rogers and the experience on her Rogers Nextbox is excellent, great UI.

      1. Yeah I think I will. It has some stuff I like, and, when I use the Shaw Gateway and get the stuff via cable rather than the ‘net I don’t use my bandwidth. Yeah I have Netflix, and Hulu plus, and Showtime with Hulu Plus and NHL Gamecentre.

        The lack of a ‘continue watching’ option between internet devices and the set top cable box really bugs me.

        Like I said though, the interface is actually beautiful on that Rogers box my Mom has.

    1. My new pet peeve on the app is that there’s no “continue watching” placeholder for series I’ve started watching. As in I have to search for the title to watch the next episode after I’ve closed the app rather than it being on my home screen. I guess I won’t wish I had a Shaw box to compare the experience though.

      1. YES! I’d forgotten about that! And CraveTV will let you save shows to a list, but I can’t find any way to delete something from the list when I’m done.

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