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ShomiShomi streaming tries to cut into Netflix' business

By Jim Bray
August 11, 2016

Netflix may be the several hundred pound gorilla in the world of TV content streaming - and with good reason - but competitor shomi has a lot going for it as well. I don't think it has the depth and breadth of what Netflix offers, but there's still plenty of programming to peruse.

The folks behind the service offered me a free month to sample its wares, so I took them up on it; unfortunately, due to a brain issue (I forgot!) I signed up just as I was leaving for vacation, so I didn't have as much time to poke around as I'd have liked before my trial period ended. But I got a decent first impression.

Most people will undoubtedly want to compare content - the amount of stuff you can watch from the particular service - and in that regard shomi comes up short compared to Netflix. On the other hand, Netflix itself comes up short when you compare Canadian and U.S. content, though I don't believe it's as huge a chasm now as it was a few  years ago. But it seems to me that the Canadian Netflix still has more on tap than shomi, and it appears that as long as we live under the tyrannical reign of the CRTC we won't be allowed the full U.S. Netflix deal. We need to be protected from those darn Americans, don't you know?

Shomi does seem to offer some more obscure, or "genre" stuff than Netflix. One of the first things I watched when I activated the service was an old concert by The Who, from 1975 when they kicked off the American leg of their "By Numbers" tour. Giving me Who stuff is a great way to snag my attention! They also have concerts by such artists as Bon Jovi, Tom Petty, Nora Jones, Fall Out Boy, Ed Sheeran, Jethro Tull, and many others.

And if you like sci-fi, they have stuff like 2001: a space odyssey, Superman (the Richard Donner original, the only decent one), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, lots of Star Trek, and even relatively obscure stuff such as Howard the Duck and John Carpenter's They Live.

There are also sections devoted to TV shows, Canadian content, Musicals, Romance, etc. etc.

Netflix seems more "mainstream," in that there isn't as much obscure stuff in their video smorgasbord as I found on shomi. It also seems to focus on current or recent TV shows and movies more than Shomi does (for example, Netflix now streams the latest Star Wars movie), but since I don't care about much of today's TV that's not really a plus as far as I'm concerned.

And it isn't as if you can watch a current season's programming; shomi and Netflix are both at least a season behind - so if you're looking for such a service as a way to cut the cable cord, you'll be twisting in the wind until they deign to add all the episodes. This might not be a big deal to you, though.

Shomi claims some 1200 movies as well as its TV selection, and it's a pretty broad cross section, though as with the TV selection there didn't seem to be as many newer releases as you might like. It didn't bother me, though, since most current releases leave me cold - and I noticed more of my so-called "guilty pleasures" with shomi than with Netflix, films such as "Army of Darkness," "Videodrome," and Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous." About the most recent movie title I noticed on Shomi was "Django Unchained," which is a couple of years old now. Granted, I didn't pore over the library with a fine toothed cursor.

I also didn't notice shomi offering original material, such as Netflix' "House of Cards" and the like, and there's no 4K service yet, but HD and 4K will cost you extra with Netflix, too - $11.99 per month for the 4K (though that also gives you access to the service on more devices simultaneously).

Besides my web browser and iPad, I used shomi via my Google Chromecast, sending the programming from my iPad to the Chromecast. It worked fine that way and the audio and video quality of what I watched was up to snuff - remembering that the picture and sound depend on how good (or bad) the original source is. I wish I could have used shomi via my Roku, but 'twas not to be - yet, at least.

Both services' interfaces are quite similar, in that you scroll through a multitude of thumbnails grouped via genre, and they both try to flog stuff they think you should watch, which bugs me to no end since the stuff they flog is generally stuff I have no interest in watching, regardless of what they think.  

Is shomi worth the $8.99 per month that they charge?  That's a looney a month more than Netflix' basic service and equal to the CraveTV service Bell keeps flogging. I haven't tried Crave so can't judge it, but between the three legal streaming services available to Canadians you can probably find the lion's share of the stuff you want to watch, as long as it isn't things like live sports and news programming or current network offerings.

So if you subscribe to the Lexus service (4K) of Netflix, as well as Crave and shomi, you're looking at about $30 CAD per month for a humongous amount of programming. That's pretty cheap when you consider what the cable and satellite companies are charging for their services, which are generally filled with a bunch of channels you probably wouldn't miss if they weren't there - but you have to pay for them anyway. There's probably a lot of redundancy across the three services, but I daresay it's no worse than broadcast TV with its endless re-running of shows across multiple channels - and the advantage of streaming is that you can watch what you want (assuming they offer it) whenever you want, no PVR required.

But if you're looking for a single streaming service that'll give you the most bang for your minimal bucks, I'd have to say that Netflix is still the winner and online champion. It also offers the most original content, if you care. CraveTV and shomi are definitely playing catch-up, since Netflix had a several year head start, so time will tell if the Canadian-only services will be able to catch their U.S.-based target.

Getting hung up…

Many people have been getting harassing phone calls lately purporting to be from the Canada Revenue Agency - threatening calls that basically tell you you'll spend the rest of your life in jail if you don't respond immediately.

I've gotten probably a dozen of these calls, from the phone number 613-627-8414, and since I don't answer calls when I don't recognize the number from which they're originating, I've let them got to voice mail. I get truncated messages (they start as soon as the phone is answered, so the beginning gets cut off by my outgoing message) but the point is clear: knuckle under or face the consequences.

Sure seemed like a scam to me, and it was confirmed when I went to a Canada Post outlet recently and they had a notice about it. Then I looked it up on and they noted as well that the number has been flagged as a scam.

I got two more calls from that number today, within two hours of my getting up this morning! Alas, these are robo-calls so there's no point in answering and cussing out the caller, as satisfying as that might be. So I went to my phone provider's website and listed the number as spam, so theoretically it won't get through again.

So if you get a call from this number, just ignore it.  

Copyright 2016 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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