Let’s discuss Netflix, Shomi and CraveTV

Daniel Bader

January 17, 2016 5:18pm

As of Thursday, with the Canada-wide launch of Bell’s streaming television service, Canadians are newly awash in streaming service options — something we’re not necessarily used to.

CraveTV now joins Shomi, which expanded to all Canadians in August, and Netflix, which has reached the point of near-ubiquity for most of us, in the mindshare of national audiences. Previously, both CraveTV and Shomi were limited to subscribers of particular cable or internet companies.

With CraveTV now available to everyone, we thought it would be a good time to talk about which one is worth subscribing to — or whether, in this day and age, it’s realistic to expect people to subscribe to more than one of these services.

Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Netflix, for example, has a insufficient selection of great movies but some fan favourite TV shows, such as Friends, Scandal, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and many others, are available on the Canadian version. Increasingly, though, Netflix is differentiating itself with fantastic original series and movies, including Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Bloodline. And if there is a show or movie not available in Canada, there are numerous ways to skirt that geographical grey area — at least for a few more weeks.

At $8.99 for the most popular streaming tier, which comes with two simultaneous HD streams, Netflix is, for many Canadians, the obvious choice. While the company hasn’t shared recent numbers, the latest predictions indicate there are nearly four million Netflix subscribers in the country, which amounts to a quarter of those with high-speed internet connections. These are enviable numbers for any company, and viewers that, with Shomi and CraveTV, the major connectivity players are attempting to capture.

Shomi, also $8.99, focuses, like Netflix, on movies and television shows. Due to parent companies Rogers’ and Shaw’s existing relationships with licensees, many great movies and exclusive TV shows like Sons of Anarchy, Jane the Virgin, Peaky Blinders and, from Amazon, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle.

Shomi’s disadvantage is its apps, which, especially on set-top boxes like Apple TV, are less feature-rich than Netflix and CraveTV.

The latter, Bell’s streaming service, has a number of advantages and a tighter focus than either Shomi or Netflix. For starters, it is cheaper at $7.99 per month (or $6 for television subscribers), but lacks any studio movie productions; the only full-length content it offers is documentaries and the occasional concert. But Bell’s expansive deal with HBO gives it exclusive Canadian access to the pay-television network’s back catalogue, so Crave is the only streaming service in Canada where you’ll find The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Band of Brothers and Sex and the City. Bell has also inked some rad exclusives, including Showtime’s back catalogue, as well as the entire series of Seinfeld and South Park’s ongoing canon, which is up to 18 seasons. It also hosts every season of every Star Trek show to date.

Unfortunately, Bell, through its TMN service, still sequesters newer and ongoing HBO shows like Game of Thrones and Girls to television subscribers; at the moment, CraveTV only offers HBO programs that have ended their run. This may soon change, given Bell’s renegotiation with HBO’s parent company, Time Warner, but there is no clear timeline at this point.

Each offers a trial for new users — Netflix and CraveTV one month, and Shomi two months — and each holds the licenses for a decent cross-section of popular American culture. And while Netflix does have a small selection of Canadian content, both CraveTV and Shomi are, due to their obligations to the CRTC, required to host slightly more. Bell Media says that CraveTV offers 1,200 episodes of Canadian programming, but doesn’t specify which ones. It does, however, point out that its first original show, Letterkenny, begins streaming on Super Bowl Sunday, February 7th.

Finally, all three services have mobile apps, and all of them can stream to either AirPlay or Chromecast. As mentioned above, they all have set-top box support, but only Netflix is on Roku, Playstation and Xbox. Shomi is planning to roll out to both PS4 and Xbox One this month, but CraveTV is only expanding to the latter system; Bell currently has no plans to bring it to Playstation 4.

So, given all that information, and perhaps some of your own experiences with the services, which ones are worth subscribing to?

  • Allan

    I’m still confused.

    • Adam Olivero

      Nope nada for all three.

    • Tim

      try Flicksurfer, you can search for TV shows and movies on Netflix. It also has a region selector as a filter. I don’t know of a search site for Crave or Shomi

    • McNucklefuts

      Download JustWatch! It searches all the streaming services along with stores like iTunes and Google Play!

    • KiwiBri

      yep, there’s a (non official) website that compares Netflix canada to netflix USA and shows all the shows

  • LeMuffin

    Cravetv is dead unless they can get the newer HBO series. Shomi has a decent selection including Mr Robot, transparent, the Americans, but their appletv is atrocious.

    • Ben S

      agh, yes. Shomi on Apple TV has been a headache.
      no ‘recently watched’ is probably my biggest beef, and issues with streaming come and go.
      I’ve only had Crave a few days, but also get a lot of error messages and messages saying I have too many registered devices (I have one).
      having al three is still way less than we were paying years ago for Rogers VIP, but might not keep Crave past the free trial.

  • gwydionjhr

    requesters?

    • Comrade Yeti

      I’d like to “requester” some proof reading from the author!

  • Mark Small

    For me it is all about device support. I have a Roku, a Wii, and a Chromecast hooked up to my TV. For streaming shows the Roku is the best choice, but only Netflix supports it.

    I tried a month of Shomi using the Chromecast and my phone, but didn’t like the experience. My 8 year old doesn’t have a device to use with the Chromecast, so he can’t use it unless I surrender my phone. It doesn’t make for a useful service for those with a family. Also, I had video quality problems with Shomi using Chromecast.

    Likewise I won’t even try CraveTV unless they support the Roku. Another strike against Crave is the lack of kids content.

    So for now I’ll stick with Netflix, supplemented by other services like Crunchyroll (which supports the Roku just fine).

  • PowerWheelz #BB10

    I have an Amazon Fire TV stick(yes in Canada) which runs FireOS(android). While I can install Android Shomi (and have) it doesn’t work as it I designed for touch screen not remote. Until remote support for media boxes becomes reality…. Netflix it is.

  • cartfan88

    I’d stick with Netflix whether it’s better or not. Rogers and Bell are waging war against consumers on the mobile front. Thankfully Netflix exists or these things would be $24.99 and only work for Bell or Rogers subscribers.

    • josh

      Well, it’s not because of Netflix that these services are being offered to all – it was the CRTC that stepped in and demanded it.

    • crazicanuck

      Good point!

  • Rev0lver

    The shomi app for Android works horribly with my Chromecasts. I have to go get my work phone, an iPhone 6, just to get it to connect reliably.

    The quality of the video is also much lower than Netflix. I have a 100mbps connection but the video is often below DVD quality.

  • Jason

    right now theres this idea that you can only have 1 maybe 2 streaming services however in a few years im pretty sure most people are going to have at least 3. streaming services are trying to make a name for them self so each has something different netflix is dropping some movies and tv shows and is trying for original content, shomi is going for movies and crave is going for tv shows and as time goes on i can see this being the trend where you have a streaming service for movies another for tv and another one or two for exclusive content.

  • Jacob Bondt

    I will stay with Netflix thank you the other streaming don’t come near the quality Netflix delivers.The other streaming services are showing old repeat TV shows I already paid for already when they were on my cable service,most of these shows are junk Shomi ,and Crave is nothing but junk shows!

  • Hello Moto

    When/if Crave TV gets Game of Thrones I might try it out. Netflix is still the one to beat and Showmi is a very far second. Showmi and Crave really need to be priced below Netflix, perhaps at $6/month.

    • vn33

      Same here… GoT is the only incentive for me to try Crave. Otherwise, I can wait one day to watch it ????

  • Adam Olivero

    I’ll come back when Shomi and Crave TV have Android TV apps. Till then their non starters for me

    • Michael Raffoul

      Shomi has android apps (one for phone and one for tablet)… I’ve been using them since June.

    • Adam Olivero

      Yep but they don’t have Android TV apps for the Google Nexus Player or Nvidia Shield TV. Can’t use them there as they don’t support controller input

    • Costa84

      Put your money where your mouth is, because they have Android apps. Just confused by your requirement for “Android TV” apps?

      Anyway; when it comes to the selection of platforms, Netflix is the most widely available streaming service. I have a Bell PVR (on demand with TMN GO, Crave, and some other movie packages), WD TV Live (Netflix only), PS4 (no Crave option announced), my series 6 Samsung Smart TV (Netflix only), Daniel already mentioned Roku being Netflix only. I’m sure this list will shrink in time, but Crave and Shomi still have a lot of catching up to do.

    • Keith Zubot-Gephart

      Android TV is the settop and smart-tv version of Android. For instance Google sells the Nexus Player which is a small puck-shaped device that I have hooked up to my projector and use to watch YouTube and Netflix and such. It can be navigated with the Remote control it comes with, with a remote app on a phone, or act as a Chromecast target.

    • Adam Olivero

      I’d love for them to get Android TV versions to use on my Google Nexus Player or Nvidia Shield TV. Don’t like the idea of having to cast from my phone all the time.

  • I like the content on Shomi, but the terrible apps are a deal breaker. How can an app for watching TV shows launch without the ability to remember which episode you are on? It’s baffling.

    Crave is slightly better, but still buggy.

    You can have all the shows in the world, but I’m not paying money for a service that makes it consistently frustrating to access them.

  • taguntumi

    The Crave tv app is unusable on the new apple tv it might as well not be there. I’m getting 12 months of crave free with my Telus subscription and after a month haven’t been able to watch one show. The reviews reflect this.

    • EMTGuy1

      Can I ask how you got CraveTV free for 12 months? I have Optik TV and Internet and the only offers I can find for CraveTV is for $4/mo with subscription.

    • Smerf

      It was likely a sign up promo. I got 12 months free of Crave TV as well when I switched to Telus from Shaw. From a Telus perspective you can just use the crave tv app on their set top box why even use apple tv? Unless of course you only have internet. Mind you the app isn’t all that great but still usable for browsing and watching shows.

    • taguntumi

      Sorry don’t check here much. It was a new customer offer. $500 and 12 months Crave. As they show no sign of updating the iOS app I can’t see me continuing with it when it expires.

  • stone fox

    the shomi for shaws gateway is joke too. clunky, slowly go through the steps to find a show. its almost unusable.

  • Tim

    since I already have Hulu Plus, I don’t need CraveTV or Shomi.

  • Ricky Bobby

    Netflix + VPN was easily the preferred method.

    Funny how some people would rather pay extra for this than to get bamboozled by Shomi and CraveTV. Shomi/CraveTV has much less content than Netflix and they want you to pay the same price?

    Paying more for less, the Robellus way!

  • Lucas Kitchen

    I use Netflix the most with Crave on the side primarily because it’s cheap since I’m a Telus customer. I find the lack of support across different platforms the most frustrating thing about the new streaming services. I can use Netflix on every device, gaming system, and my cable box and it works, and works well. I watch Crave using the cable box and the layout and performance is terrible. Considering Crave and Shomi have Netflix providing a shining example of how to create a proper app it’s ridiculous that they can’t figure out how people want to watch their shows.

  • McNucklefuts

    Check out “JustWatch” if you want an app that searches between all the services!
    It does Netflix, Shomi, and Crave as well as iTunes and Google Play.
    It’s great!

  • jeremynsl

    Sure, Canadian Netflix might not be quite as good as US Netflix but I’ve never heard anyone say there is a “paucity of great movies” on the service. There are tons of excellent movies. My queue is always full of movies I haven’t seen and it’s not hard to find more.

    I have not tried Showmi but I would be absolutely shocked if Shaw has lined up anything significantly better, which is what your review seems to suggest (Showmi has ‘many great movies’). If you truly feel it has an advantage in this area I think your readers would be better served by giving some examples, at the very least.

  • Jorge Miguel “DarthVader”

    First time with Netflix I got the free trial, cancel after a week but by the end of the moth my mind was changed and continue with it, CraveTv (not a choice). Then Shomi came out with some nice content. Got the free trial. Awefull app experience, slow, crashes in mobile and desktop app. I cancel after a week And my subscription was cut right there. So, worst choice Shomi. I will choose cravetv over shomi. Best choice netflix and more now with it esclusive content which most of it is amazing. Again shomi, bad, evil, terrible

  • Andrew English

    Netflix is still better, the other two don’t have apps that work across all the platforms yet. Once they do I sign up and check them out.

  • fidorulz

    What we need is 1 service that uses all 3(netflix,shomi and crave) I would pay 20$ (combined for all 3 it would cost 27 plus tax) for it and I think this seems like a fair price for that content without the providers feeling ripped off. Or maybe do like crunchyroll and providers get paid based on views for the content. So poplular shows make more money vs less popular and thus all providers get about an even share since they all have good content

  • Jesus McDongswoggle

    Netflix gets my money simply because they aren’t Bell or Rogers, simple as that. Good for them for changing the game. What cable companies need to look at is why people are moving away from them instead of arrogantly trying to legislate our freedom of choice away.

    Dangle all the new hottest shows and sports infront of me all you want, there’s easy enough ways to see something right away if I really want to. Otherwise, it’s a bloody TV show, do I really need to see it asap? Doubtful.

  • Vito R.

    Am I the only one that had to look up “paucity”?

    • Phil – it – up

      Don’t feel too bad about it. Daniel has a tendency to use $0.25 words when $0.05 words will do. I think he’s an insecure person that hides behind a
      mask of superiority. It’s why I stopped listening to the podcast, his arrogant attitude puts me off.

  • I love this article.

    I think Crave has a lot of potential if they get the current content. Maybe something like a week or 2 weeks behind live tv, I would wait on that.

    Netflix might have its hands full with Crave in the near future

    • TechGuru

      Yup. Particularly if Netflix become determined to block VPN’s and anonymous proxys.
      Instead they should be dealing with the content creators in such a fashion to say that geofencing is not realistic in this day and age and if studios want to make money on their productions they need to get with the program. The company has a unique opportunity to be a major trendsetter here but are knuckling under to the douches that think they can dictate terms when in point of fact they need services like Netflix to get their programs to an audience.

    • Who knows if that threat is real. They said they would block VPN’s before and nothing happened. I think this is just to save face, going into new agreements with their content partners.

    • MasterofTech

      Well, let’s hope so because this is not just about content and where you can watch it but also about protection of privacy online which is fundamentally what VPN’s are for.

    • Privacy? What’s that?

    • Abel

      Agree. I think that’s the reason.

  • crazicanuck

    Good article and good discussion. The question is how much TV do you need and how much do you want to spend? My choice: Netflix, supplemented with iTunes purchases e g Mr Robot. I download the iTunes shows and watch them on the GO Train so don’t need a data subscription.

    (My iTunes passes are in SD. Adam Smith lives!)

  • Andrew

    I’m on Team Netflix, because it’s not Bell or Rogers and because my Panasonic Blu-ray player only has a Netflix app (which is actually really good).

  • fruvous

    Don’t forget, Bell doesn’t want criminals and pirates to use their services.

  • ArcillaR

    Whichever one you choose, supplement your in-home experience with a good hd antenna for crystal clear, free local channels.

  • Roger

    KODI

  • Raj Singh

    Too many subscriptions.
    As of today and of the three you listed, Netflix is the only one I’m willing to pay for.

  • Pigs Can Fly

    – Netflix: Canada Netflix sucks so I use a VPN, canceling it if VPN doesn’t work anymore.

    – CraveTV: nothing on it I care about other than The Wire. Canceling it soon

    – Shomi: got the 2 month free trial and catching up on Vikings before the next season starts and want to watch Black Sails which I’ve never seen before. Canceling it after I’m done with those.

  • Rimtu Kahn

    I have Shomi and Netflix currently. I subscribe to Netflix and Rogers includes Shomi as part of the internet tier I have. Having used both across multiple apps I have to say Netflix is hands down the superior product. Shomi apps are pretty poor in quality across android, ios. Shomi doesn’t have apps for smart tv and ps3. Netflix have apps for all platform and even for non-smart tv you have option of those chrome cast or such. Netflix streaming quality is much better than Shomi. Selection for me is also much better in Netflix than Shomi. App search for titles is much better too. 1 thing Shomi has going for it, is in able to watch Shomi on cable box similar to on demand without using up my internet data pool. However the user experience is not that great. There’s no synch between cable box and app, so watching on cable box or app are independent and cannot resume from each other. If I had to pay for Shomi, I wouldn’t have it. I find between the 2 options I am watching Netflix 95% of the time. Crave tv for me wouldn’t be worth paying for as the only series I’d really watch again is the soprano. For me crave tv appears to be “watch it again tv” and it has incomplete selection of the old shows. If any of these services would offer all the old tv series (knight rider, air wolf etc some of which would interest me) then that could be a deal maker for me. However if anyone is in the market to sign up for a new streaming service, some of the Netflix original offerings are good enough reason in addition to all the app compatibilities to sign up for Netflix only. Also don’t forget Netflix is the only product that offers UHD streaming for a higher price I think 11.99 / month. So if you have a UHD tv you’re in for a nicer experience with Netflix.

  • Jeff Brassard

    Netflix and only netflix for me. I have a PS3 and a Roku neither Canadian service supports these. I’m not getting an Apple TV for this. Even my 3ds has a netflix app… as does my crummy Sony blu-ray player.. There is something to be said for ubiquity :).

  • These services are kinda the worst. I’m not just bagging on Rogers and Bell, but Amazon, Hulu, Yahoo and whoever is making siloed content. They’re essentially trying to make it so instead of paying $10 a month for Netflix that you’ll pay $10 for Netflix, and $20 for HBO and $6 for Shomi and on and on. Essentially they’re rebuilding everything that was wrong with the cable model on the web.

    I found personally it was pretty annoying when I heard Parks & Rec was on Netflix, yet it was only on the US Netflix. It’s on Shomi in Canada.

    • Rimtu Kahn

      While I respect that you may have a point I would have to disagree. The main goal of cable cutting is us content consumers having the ffreedo. To watch what we want when we want. Not being able to do so I.e. only subjected to what and when cable channels shows us content is what is wrong with the cable tv model. Personally i give it 5 years more that we will see cable tv being the primary source of audio-visual entertainment content that majority will still be subscribing to. To further the point I do not care at all about baseball and no one else in my family does either, so my tv doesn’t need to show baseball nor should I be subject to the baseball content that I am forced to pay a portion of.

  • Leif Shantz

    I actually like Shomi better than Netflix because it has better content and has some good AmazonStudios productions like Transparent. But i will keep both Netflix and Shomi for the foreseeable future.

  • Mr_Smoosh

    I cut the cord to stop giving money to bell and rogers, so I won’t be getting anything from them.

    If netflix isn’t blowing smoke and they really do crack down on geoblocking, I’ll be cancelling that and going full-torrent mode.

  • acb87

    crave tv is great for back catalog. watching Seinfeld on demand is great and any star trek series. shomi is good as well but cost more then crave and netflix is the best. having all 3 plus youtube , i only watch tv for the news and live content now

  • MassDeduction

    To reiterate my comment on the last Netflix-related article, Netflix no longer offers an $8.99 tier. It’s $7.99 for standard-def and one stream, $9.99 for HD and two streams, and $11.99 for up to 4K quality and four streams. The $8.99 mid-tier went to $9.99, and only certain existing subscribers are paying $8.99 now.

    • Abel

      You would think these “journalists” would go to the websites they are talking about to check that visible info before putting it in writing… but, no.

  • Alexandre P.

    What about the content in French-language on Shomi and CraveTV? (Either original French-language shows or movies, or English-language shows and movies dubbed in French.)

    I feel there is a lack of French and Quebec produced content on Netflix. While I don’t personally watch French-language shows, and prefer watching TV in English, there are still some Quebec productions that I would like to catch up from time to time. I’m intrigued to know if, being Canadian services, there is a better offer on Shomi and CraveTV.

  • Frankie W

    CraveTV launched in 2014 with no apps, we are now 2016, the android app is only getting 3.2 star rating, and the Windows app is a stripped down version of Internet Explorer. Nothing for Roku or Smart TVs. Bell is so a*s backwards, launching a service without decent accessibility and leave many still waiting…

    To add to confusion TMN Go app has recent HBO programming which Crave doesn’t. Bell also has a Discovery Go app. Instead of using 1 app for all programming, they are shattering programming all over the interweb. Inefficiency must be the Bell motto.

  • Mike

    I despise how Netflix keeps blocking access to other content. It amounts to Web censorship as it’s no different than visiting a non-canadian website. . . They’re getting paid every month so why should they care what segment of their product we watch. Ridiculous. And they, in turn, can use that money to pay the licensing fees on the shows. It’s not like people are torrenting for free.