TELUS to CRTC: Rogers and Shaw’s Shomi Launch “Anti-Competitive”

Earlier this week TELUS and Eastlink filed complaints to the CRTC, both claiming the “beta” launch of Rogers and Shaw’s shomi streaming service was “anti-competitive”, as it gave the owners an unfair advantage in the race to sign up users, reports The Globe and Mail.

The filings made by TELUS and Eastlink suggest Rogers and Shaw did not try to negotiate with the former in a sincere manner. TELUS gave the example of Bell and their CraveTV streaming service, which provided ample time for TV distributors to line up commercial negotiations and implement it into video-on-demand platforms prior to the announcement.

Rogers and Shaw, on the other hand, “provided extremely limited notice”, which made it nearly “impossible” for other TV distributors to get ready in time for the launch:

“It therefore is clear to Telus that Rogers and Shaw had every intention of leveraging their content ownership to grant themselves an anti-competitive temporary exclusive by making it next to impossible for other [television distributors] to negotiate a commercial agreement and operationalize the Shomi service to launch simultaneously with Rogers and Shaw,”

Eastlink noted in their filing despite a preliminary shomi rate card sent to them by Rogers and Shaw, the latter have “consistently indicated to us that it is not yet in a position to provide full contract terms. Even with the recent announcement, Rogers and Shaw have still not provided a distribution agreement to us for review,” concluding the joint operators had no intentions to make shomi available to independent TV distributors “in a timely manner.”

Rogers and Shaw, in their formal response to the complaint on Monday, argued there was nothing unfair about the beta launch:

“There is absolutely no head-start advantage conferred on Rogers and Shaw during this period. The fact that Shomi has not concluded a distribution agreement with any other [television distributors] … does not change the fact that it is being made available and discussions with potential distribution partners are ongoing,”

The consumer group PIAC previously filed a complaint to the CRTC to say shomi violates the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act due to its restrictive nature, as it was only available to Rogers and Shaw’s cable TV or Internet customers during its “beta” phase.

Despite Rogers and Shaw recently announcing shomi would exit its beta stage and launch publicly this summer, the CRTC has stated this won’t stop the Commission from hearing about the subscriptions complaint.