By John Bugailiskis
TORONTO - Shaw Communications is wading into the increasingly competitive video content streaming market with the launch today of a new service that enables its subscribers to stream shows from HBO Canada and Movie Central directly to their Apple iOS devices to view anywhere, anytime.
The Shaw Go Movie Central app is available free for download to all Shaw customers who subscribe to Movie Central whether through Shaw Cable or Shaw Direct. It includes access to hit HBO shows like Game of Thrones, True Blood and Boardwalk Empire. Currently, the Movie Central subscriber base extends from west of Manitoba so the new app is unavailable to Shaw customers located outside of this area. The Shaw Go Movie Central content will also be unavailable to users or devices located or traveling outside of Canada for now.
“It’s about taking the best content that is available in the market and leveraging it with the mobile devices that are in the home,” said Jay Mehr, senior vice-president, operations, Shaw, at the Wednesday press event to unveil the new app.
Mehr said that in developing the app Shaw focused on the end user experience first and “then worked it back to the technology” using an in-house team to develop it. The app provides several features that enhance the user experience, including intelligent streaming, which provides the most optimal video quality based on Internet connection speed and the ability to stop and resume video playback through video bookmarking, he added.
The app at launch is only available for Apple iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch, but will be made available to Android device users later this fall he told Cartt.ca. He added that this is only the first phase of Shaw Go and that they expect to add live streaming TV, on demand content and a selection of family-focussed shows within the next 30 days.
The home screen on the slick Shaw app is navigated via swiping with your fingers to slide additional content into view and is optimized for the screen size it is viewed on (pictured). The home view offers a menu that includes Featured (Content), Series (TV), Movies, and Documentaries. By tapping on any piece of content you can access additional information and then tap the play icon to begin streaming. The app also contains a search button that intuitively provides results as you type.
The Shaw app is similar to the HBO GO service that was launched February, 2010 in the U.S. and is free to HBO customers who subscribe through a participating subscription TV provider. The service now makes all HBO original programming available online for both Apple and Android mobile users.
With the app, Shaw joins a growing number of cable and satellite companies that are developing TV Everywhere and Over-the-Top (OTT) video solutions. In addition to HBO GO, there’s now Comcast Xfinity Streampix, Netflix, iPlayer, and Sky Go to name just a few. And back in Canada, Bell told the CRTC last week it wants to be next in line with an authenticated service in both official languages. Rogers already has Rogers Anyplace TV. While Telus’ Optik on the go app let’s subscribers stream free TV on demand shows and movies to both Apple and Android devices.
"Combining the unique pay TV strengths of Astral with Bell Media's broad range of programming will create a Canadian service that truly stands apart from those of international providers," said Bell’s CEO George Cope to the Commission. He did not get specific about how the system would function or what it would cost.
The success of subscription streaming services is undeniable with global revenues expected to reach $2.1 billion this year and grow to more than $4 billion in 2017, according to Scottsdale, Ariz.-based ABI.
In the meantime, cord-cutters have been demanding for some time for a way to subscribe to services like the HBO GO service without having to pay for cable. But HBO has insisted only cable/satellite/telco TV subscribers will get access to HBO content online.
However the Time Warner-owned pay service made a slight move this week, launching a standalone HBO streaming service called HBO Nordic AB, a joint venture between HBO and Parsifal International that will be available for less than 10 euros a month when it launches in October. Variety reports that the new service will be available in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, however those are regions where HBO has no traditional cable or broadcast partners and nothing to lose by launching online there.