TORONTO – Shomi is getting ready to turn up the heat on Netflix and Bell Media’s CraveTV by opening up the streaming service to all Canadians.
When Shomi first launched in November, it was only available to TV and Internet customers of Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) and Shaw Communications (TSX:SJR.B), which teamed up to launch the Netflix competitor.
But on Wednesday, Shomi announced it will soon sell its service — for $8.99 a month, the same price as Netflix — to any Canadians who want access.
The company didn’t give a specific date for the wide launch, only saying it will happen by late September.
“We launched in beta in November more to iron out the kinks, so it was never about acquiring the most subscribers,” David Asch, senior vice-president and general manager of Shomi, said in a telephone interview.
“It was really to see what content worked, what features worked, iron out the kinks before we went direct to consumer.”
The service can be streamed on tablet, mobile and online platforms. It can also be streamed to televisions via Xbox 360, Apple TV and Chromecast. Rogers and Shaw TV subscribers can also access content through their set-top boxes.
Shomi’s catalogue of movies and TV shows includes past seasons of “Modern Family,” “The Americans” and “Sons of Anarchy.” Canadian exclusives include the buzzy series “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and “Catastrophe.”
“Every week there are new series or movies to watch, so that won’t change,” said Asch.
“And we’re going to obviously have new content for our launch.”
Shomi’s latest move makes it a bigger competitor for Netflix, which has been the dominant subscription video service in Canada since it launched here in 2010.
CraveTV, which also launched late last year, is available only to TV customers of Bell and a number of other telecom partners — which don’t include Rogers and Shaw — for $4 per month.
“While we are always evaluating our business model in the context of a rapidly changing industry, we remain pleased with CraveTV’s performance,” Scott Henderson, vice-president of communications at Bell Media, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We continue to have positive discussions that will result in the service being made available to even more TV subscribers across the country.”
Asch wouldn’t reveal how many subscribers Shomi has, but he did say he’s “really pleasantly surprised” by the numbers so far.
He also said Shomi likes its chances in competing with Netflix.
“We have a lot of great content. Seventy per cent of the content on our service — if I exclude kids’ programming — is exclusive to our service, so you can only watch it on Shomi,” said Asch.
“So I think we’re going to be very formidable.”