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?