Scenes: The "Star-Studded" shomi Launch Party
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Scenes: The “Star-Studded” shomi Launch Party

Rogers brings local celebrities, a fake biker gang, and acrobats to the launch party for its new streaming service.

Monday night saw the launch party for shomi (no capital S, because that’s the new hot thing with #brands), Rogers’ new video service that is clearly designed to compete with video services that may or may not rhyme with “Schmetflix.” Rogers spared no expense for this festive launch party at the Distillery District, bringing out numerous local celebrities (ranging in fame level from Enrico Colantoni to “that guy who’s fourth-billed on The Blacklist“), a fake biker gang, acrobats, a DJ, and a man who created sculptures with light itself, which is really terribly fancy. After all, we bet you don’t create sculptures with light itself. And just think, you have all that light just lying around, lighting things up, and you’re not even doing stuff with it. That’s why you don’t get to go to fancy launch parties.

Of course, once you get past the fanciness of the launch party, and actually look at shomi’s promotional materials, you start to wonder about its capability as a Netflix-killer. For starters, it appears that in order to get shomi, you have to be a Rogers subscriber of some kind (TV, internet—the possibilities are endless! Well, except that we just listed both of them)—and then you have to pay for shomi as an additional service. Compare this to Netflix, which you can just buy and it works anywhere and you don’t have to give Rogers money first in order to buy it.

What Rogers is banking on to beat Netflix is its content. Netflix Canada has gotten more respectable, content-wise, than it was at its inception, but most viewers still prefer American Netflix—which they access via virtual private networks or proxy surfing in order to disguise their Canadian locations (a practice to which Netflix appears to turn a blind eye). Hence Rogers (and Bell) quietly hoping/suggesting/lobbying that the CRTC institute a “Netflix tax” of some kind to give them another advantage, because controlling an oligopoly on the Canadian telecom market presumably wasn’t enough. (Certainly all that power and profit wasn’t enough for Rogers to put together a usable video-on-demand service the first time they tried to do it.)

But we digress. Rogers promises there will be “11,000 hours” of content on shomi at launch time. The service has signed deals with Warner Brothers, FX, Starz, Sony, and BBC Worldwide North America (“like the regular BBC, but not quite”) to get lots of exclusive content, and brags about having shows such as Modern Family, Sleepy Hollow, 2 Broke Girls, The Blacklist, and Vikings (original title: Game of Thrones for People Who Don’t Want to Pay for HBO). It’s not a bad lineup, but it’s also not a super-impressive one (after Modern Family, their “brag list” gets shallow in a hurry).

To bolster this, shomi also brags about its “Collections” of curated movies “put together by our own team of experts.” Unfortunately shomi’s Collections are conspicuously uninspired—one features 11 superhero movies, for example. “Did you like watching a superhero movie? Would you like to watch another? And another?” There’s a Collection of high-school movies, of dating movies, of war movies, of fantasy-adventure movies. It’s like Rogers, looking for inspiration on how to curate their video service, went back to Yahoo circa 1996 when that site was just a list of links … but then again, going back to 1996 is forward thinking in Canadian telecom circles.