Rogers Media set to get back into streaming TV after Shomi

Modernized OMNI on the way, too

TORONTO – Watch this (digital) space.

That's the word from Colette Watson, senior vice president of television and broadcast operations at Rogers Media, who told on Tuesday the media player isn't done with the online TV space after it and Shaw’s failed bet on former streamer Shomi.
"We know we have to deliver content where viewers are. How that's packaged, how that's priced, how that's delivered, is still part of the plan, but we should have something to announce in the next few months," she said.
Watson gave no details on its latest over-the-top live TV plans, beyond talk of a package of content from City prime time comedies and dramas and newscasts to OMNI and Sportsnet fare to be sold separately from its traditional City and specialty TV channel cable offerings.
Here she shed light on Rogers' OMNI-branded multicultural TV stations, which have just been approved as must-carry, regionalized specialty channels, with Italian, Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi language programming, including newscasts on the drawing board.
Each language will have a programming block with a newscast, a public affairs show and a drama or lifestyle show. Significantly, Rogers will borrow from the fast-paced, casual vibe of its BT and City News-branded shows to energize the OMNI programming blocks. "The newscasts are going to be more modern, the 2017 versions of newscasts, not the 1995 versions," Watson explained as the OMNI newscast format more goes from reporter to reporter than relies on a traditional news anchor behind a desk.
Taken together, Watson argued Rogers has a wealth of content and IP to deliver to next-generation TV viewers.
"That's a whole lot of meaningful content we can deliver across a lot of platforms. So we'll be working on what's the best way to get it to greatest number of people," she explained.
Rival Bell Canada last month launched Fibe Alt TV to enable cord-cutters or cord-nevers to watch live TV content without a traditional TV subscription or set-top box. To back Alt TV and its existing CraveTV streaming service, Bell has been buying up the pay TV and streaming rights to mostly Hollywood content to feed its cross-platform properties.
Watson said Rogers won't be paying over the odds for U.S. content against Netflix and Amazon to similarly feed its entire food chain. "They aren't making money. But they're spending a lot of money," she said of Netflix and Amazon at the recent Los Angeles Screenings, where Rogers picked up five new comedies and four dramas for its fall and winter 2017-2018 schedules.
"It will be careful, it will be strategic, but yes, you would do that (buy all rights), but we can't afford to do that on everything we do," Watson warned.
Rogers' digital plans come as broadcasters everywhere consider Internet-delivered skinny bundle offerings like Telus’ Pik TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Dish Network’s Sling TV to capture young TV viewers especially who won't pay for a traditional cable package or haven't yet subscribed to one.
Pricing any cable-style Internet TV offerings remains a challenge for cable and phone giants for whom a $25 skinny basic, when combined with extra Internet charges, gets you to $70 or $80 in monthly costs, which is not exactly an inexpensively skinny.
Rogers Media president Rick Brace told that the cost of a traditional TV set-top box is baked into any $25 a month stripped-down TV packages mandated by the CRTC. "The technology is a fact of life and I don't know how you avoid that, unless it's completely over-the-top, and even there you need the Internet," Brace argued, pointing to broadband costs coming on top of, for example, Bell's new Alt TV package.
Viacom and Discovery Communications CEOs in recent weeks have talked about a $10 a month, non-sports skinny bundle as another on-ramp for TV subscribers.
Brace isn't persuaded by the logic of offering such cut-rate, non-sports TV packages, given technology costs, but does concede Canadians astride the U.S. border could just as well get their TV needs met with bunny ears and a Netflix package.
"The urban answer is an antenna," he said