This blog will likely be of little interest to readers in the USA, but I’ll take shelter in the fact that rAVe is an international publication.
Up here on the frozen tundra of Canada, broadcasters are going hard in the paint to stymie their biggest rival, Netflix.
It’s a complicated situation, because our biggest TV broadcasters are also our biggest Internet providers, and the rules prohibit them from abusing their position to squeeze either Netflix or Netflix’s customers who are invariably also the Internet providers’ customers.
Not that they haven’t tried that too.
Last year at hearings held by the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission) the broadcasters lobbied HARD to have Netflix classified as a broadcast company, and thus subject to the same regulations as they.
Much to their surprise the CRTC told them to pound sand and, rather than try to legislate their competition’s services out of existence, compete with innovative new services of their own.
So they have, sort of.
The Big Three broadcasters, Bell, Shaw and Rogers have rolled out their own streaming TV services to compete with Netflix, dubbed Shomi and Crave.
Their competitive angle is that they offer movies and TV programming that’s not available to Canadian Netflix subscribers.
Of course, that’s an angle where they have an undisputed edge: while the Internet is global, content licensing is national, and virtually all licensing in Canada for both domestic and US content (movies and TV) goes through two licensing companies, CORUS Media and Bell Media.
If that second one sounds familiar it’s because it’s a subsidiary of Bell, a fully vertically integrated media company that controls broadcast cable and satellite TV, internet, mobile wireless, owns several TV networks, and content licensing and distribution.
They’re a behemoth, and in my opinion, to paraphrase Kanye West, “no one company should have all that power.”
Long story short, much of the difference between Canadian and American Netflix programming that Canadian consumers complain about is because CORUS and Bell only grudgingly licenses content to Netflix Canada.
But I digress. Both Shomi and Crave have simple, attractive UIs for both computers and tablets, as well as access through your HDTV set top box, their content streaming is perfectly adequate, and their monthly fee ($8/month for Shomi and $4/month for Crave) are competitive.
However they’re missing one key element that’s made Netflix a success.
In order to get Shomi on your iPad you have to subscribe to Rogers or Shaw’s TV service.
In order to get Crave you have to subscribe to Bell’s TV service.
It’s like it doesn’t even occur to broadcasters that consumers DON’T want to bundle their services. That’s why people cut the cord to begin with, and that’s why standalone service like Netflix has so much appeal.
According to the big three’s press releases initial adoption of Shomi and Crave is going well (of course they’re going to spin the numbers that way), but only time will tell if they make a dent in Netflix Canada’s popularity.
My household has Netflix, and is currently enrolled in Shomi’s free three month trial. So far my wife and kids seem to like the content it offers, so it’s possible we’ll be streaming both as time goes in.
Is there room in your household budget for more than one streaming TV service?