HBO has HBO Now, CBS has CBS All Access, and now Showtime has, well, Showtime. Today, the CBS-owned premium cable channel announced Showtime, a self-titled subscription streaming service that grants access to the network’s vault of original series and movies for $11 per month, without the need of a cable or satellite subscription. The service is slated to premiere in early July, and costs $4 less than its biggest rival, HBO Now.
You can thank the company’s bet on brand recognition for the confusingly plain name — Showtime execs say the brand didn’t want to stray from its image as an established purveyor of TV series and movies, hence the singular title for the network and streaming service. However, like other stand alone streaming platforms, the service itself is fairly straightforward. Subscribers will be granted access to live East and West Coast Showtime feeds of popular shows like Homeland, in addition to on-demand access to the network’s catalog of series, movies, documentaries, and sports.
Following the example set by HBO Now, Showtime will premiere semi-exclusively on Apple devices, including the Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, for an unspecified number of weeks before landing on other platforms. However, the service will also be available via Showtime’s website. The service goes live on Sunday, July 12, and new customers who sign up on Apple devices get service free for 30 days.
“Across CBS, we are constantly finding new ways to monetize our programming by capitalizing on opportunities presented by technology,” said CBS Corporation President and CEO Leslie Moonves. “This works best when you have outstanding premium content — like we do at Showtime — and when you have a terrific partner like Apple — which continues to innovate and build upon its loyal customer base. Going over-the-top means Showtime will be much more accessible to tens of millions of potential new subscribers.”
“Accessibility” and “exclusivity” are hard to reconcile, but Showtime’s decision to partner with Apple is probably a sensible one. CBS has a working relationship with Apple — Moonves said at Re/code’s Code Conference last week that the company is part of the “ongoing conversation” around Apple’s rumored TV service. And the strategy seemed to work well for HBO; the pared-down number of devices gave HBO time to fine-tune its streaming tech for HBO Now. The service managed to stream the Game of Thrones premiere without a hitch (unlike Dish Network’s Sling TV service) yet exposed HBO Now to a relatively large audience of users of Apple’s premium products.
Showtime may not be the first outfit to offer non-cable subscribers its content via the web, but undercutting the price of HBO Now by almost $50 per year could be just be enough to convince some cord cutters to pony up for “Homeland,” “Penny Dreadful,” and “Twin Peaks,” the latter of which will return with new episodes on Showtime in 2016. But HBO’s response could be swift — the network recently surveyed users about offering cheaper plans. An HBO representative told TechCrunch that the survey questions “should never be interpreted as suggesting a strategic direction,” but that may change if Showtime gains ground.