If you follow my twitter feed then you know that I’ve been very puzzled by the regulation around the new Shomi service. Shomi is a partnership of Shaw and Rogers, which provides film and television programming through laptop, tablet and set top cable box. I think I’ve figured it out.
The Rogers FAQ states that most Rogers customers will access Shomi through the set top box and then online through authenticated access. For those customers, it says, Shomi is subscription video-on-demand. For Internet-only customers, Shomi operates under the Digital Media Exemption Order (“DMEO”) as an OTT service.
Setting aside the fact that regulation isn’t based on customer billing, I couldn’t figure out how one service could be both OTT and exempt and SVOD and regulated at the same time. Was it not one service that is either regulated or exempt (though I admit exemption is regulation, I do mean by that subject to the significantly lesser regulation under the DMEO)?
It was suggested to me that I was looking at this wrong. It’s not one service but two. There is the SVOD service that is subject to VOD regulation and the OTT service that is exempt under the DMEO. They have different catalogues because of rights issues and regulatory obligations. And they are definitely different experiences. I had difficulty authenticating on my laptop (problems with it recognizing that I wasn’t blocking cookies, which I understand others have experienced) but was able to download the app and log on, on my tablet. The tablet experience is quite similar to Netflix. However, unlike Netflix the two services are not linked so I cannot flip back and forth while watching a program or even keep track on VOD of where I am in a series I’m watching on the tablet. Two services.
Now I wonder how the contribution to Canadian programming will be calculated for revenues generated by customers who access both the SVOD and the OTT services. Rogers and Shaw know just how many hours are spent on each platform so that should be easily and fairly allocated if they release that data to the CRTC.
So there’s work still to do but I at least have a grasp of the regulation now and that makes me happy. Will I keep subscribing to Shomi after my free trial? Honestly, if I could get the interface experience of OTT on VOD, I would be willing to pay the additional fee. But then I’d be back to being confused.