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Canada launches competitor to Netflix

MONTREAL -- Two of Canada's largest cable companies teamed up Tuesday to launch an online television service to compete with Netflix, amid fears of dwindling traditional television viewership.

Shomi, the new video-on-demand service launched by Roges Communications and Shaw Communications, will offer subscribers 1,200 movies and 340 television series initially on computers, tablets, smartphones, Xbox 360 game consoles and set top boxes.

The service starts in November for CA$8.99 per month.

“We keenly understand the media landscape is rapidly changing and that viewers are looking for greater flexibility when it comes to what they watch and how they watch it,” said Shaw vice president Barbara Williams.

“Shomi is our first step into the new world of content streaming,” she added.

Telecommunications behemoth Bell Canada has also told regulators it will soon launch a similar service.

Since it launched its streaming service in 2007, Netflix has become the world's leading Internet television network.

The Los Gatos, California-based titan says it streams more than a billion hours, collectively, of digital films and television shows to online viewers each month.

The number of its subscribers tops 50 million in over 40 countries, according to its latest financial figures released in July.

Regulators say more and more Canadians are tuning into online movie streaming websites such as Netflix, but it has not yet impacted traditional television viewing.

The number of Canadians who subscribed to Netflix grew from 3.5 million (10 percent) in 2011 to nearly six million (17 percent) in 2012, while the number of Canadian basic television subscribers increased by one percent to 12 million, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)'s latest figures.

The CRTC is now considering an overhaul of the way Canadians watch television and the prices they pay for cable or satellite television services, with new regulations to follow.

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