BUSINESS

Shomi Review: Netflix Wins On Movies, But Plenty Of TV To Binge On

11/04/2014 04:29 EST | Updated 01/04/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - While headline writers were eager to do so, Rogers and Shaw executives never called their new streaming service Shomi a "Netflix killer."

Shomi launched on Tuesday as a very worthy rival to Netflix, with more than 12,000 hours of streamable content available, including multiple seasons of some of the best TV shows of recent years.

But Canadians aren't likely to abandon Netflix en masse in favour of Shomi.

Instead, those who now spend their prime-time hours streaming Netflix rather than channel surfing may just decide that Shomi is also worthy of a monthly subscription. Currently only open to Rogers and Shaw customers, Shomi will cost $8.99 a month after a free trial.

If Shomi is successful, it'll be because users keep finding TV shows to binge on, not because of the service's lineup of films. While Shomi has a modest catalogue of movies to stream — although few, if any, have a post-2012 release date — the "most watched" on launch day were the type you can buy for a toonie at garage sales, like "Borat, "Happy Gilmore" and "The Matrix."

Netflix, meanwhile, has newer films to stream including "12 years a Slave," "The Wolf of Wall Street," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues."

But Shomi does has an enviable treasure trove of TV shows on offer, from recent top-rated mainstream hits to edgier fare found on cable networks.

There are more than 160 TV titles to choose from in all, and while there's a healthy padding of filler to bolster the selection, there are many binge-worthy shows to stream. Among the top-tier titles being promoted on Shomi's front page on Tuesday were "Sons of Anarchy" (five seasons), "New Girl" (three seasons), "Glee" (four seasons), "Scandal" (three seasons), "Homeland" (two seasons), "Doctor Who" (eight seasons) and "Louie" (three seasons).

Even if there's just one season of one show you want to watch, it's hard to argue that it isn't worth springing for Shomi.

Haven't seen the biker drama "Sons of Anarchy"? Shomi has the first five seasons available to stream, which is good for about 50 hours of binge watching. Average a couple of episodes a day and you could blow through the series in a month for just $9 (although you'd still be two seasons behind, as Shomi doesn't have season 6 and season 7 is currently airing). Buying the five seasons on DVD would cost more than $200 plus tax, while iTunes sells digital copies of all those episodes for $160 plus tax. For $160, you can get a year and a half of Shomi access.

For those who keep a close eye on their data usage, Shomi's help section says the best quality stream will consume up to 2.6 gigabytes per hour, while the lowest quality stream goes through up to 700 megabytes an hour. Rogers and Shaw TV customers can also access Shomi through their set-top box, which doesn't incur any data fees.

As with Netflix, early Shomi customers may not stay hooked for long. Some users may never run out of shows to watch on Shomi, but others may binge-watch a few series and then find nothing else is of interest.

It's unclear how often Rogers and Shaw will refresh the service with new content, but if there aren't new seasons of TV shows and movies added frequently, some users may find it's not worth continuing to pay for Shomi after a few months.

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