Showtime Becomes Latest Content Provider To Offer A Streaming Service
Following in the footsteps of its rival HBO, the premium cable network Showtime announced on Wednesday that its new Internet streaming service will make its debut in early July on Apple devices for a monthly fee of $11.
The service, which does not require a traditional television subscription, will include unlimited on-demand access to Showtime original series as well as hundreds of hours of movies, documentaries and sports programming. It also will include a live feed of the network’s East and West Coast broadcasts.
The service will be available on Apple devices in time for the season premieres of the hit series “Ray Donovan” and “Masters of Sex,” on July 12. Other distribution partners are expected. There is a free 30-day trial for new customers who register through Apple in July.
“Consumers are looking for options, looking for different ways to consume products,” Matthew C. Blank, chief executive of Showtime Networks, said in an interview.
The development is the latest in a flurry of new streaming services from media, telecom and technology companies that are trying to keep pace with the digital competitors Netflix, Amazon and Hulu and stay relevant to a generation of viewers who pay for Internet access but not traditional TV subscriptions. In April, HBO started its new $15 digital streaming service called HBO Now. Showtime’s owner, the CBS Corporation, introduced an Internet-only subscription offering last year.
The new services offer viewers more flexibility to choose which programming they want to pay for and how they want to watch it. Dish Network, for instance, offers a $20-a-month service with about 20 channels in the core package and extra add-on packages for $5 a month. Apple also is in talks to include broadcast networks in a new streaming service.
While HBO has said that its target is the 10 million homes in the United States that have Internet service but no traditional cable or satellite television subscriptions, Showtime’s aim is much broader. Showtime now counts nearly 24 million subscribers, and is seeking to greatly expand its base with the new service.
The $11 monthly price tag for Showtime’s service falls in the middle of other streaming offerings. HBO priced its service at $15 a month, a value that analysts said represented an effort to balance relationships with current distributors. Netflix starts at $8 a month.
With premium services like HBO and Showtime taking this step, it’s only a matter of time before other content providers start doing the same thing. Presumably, you’ll probably see cable networks that are owned by the same companies, such as the Turner/Time Warner networks or the networks owned by NBC, offering some sort of package deal that would give you access to more than just one network for a flat monthly fee. Eventually, the production companies themselves will start getting into the game not only by offering new episodes of existing shows but also by opening their libraries of reruns of old shows that haven’t been on the air in years and which aren’t currently being syndicated. Since it owns the broadcast rights to many of its classic shows, CBS has already been doing this with its streaming service, where subscribers are given access to libraries of shows that include everything from I Love Lucy and All In The Family to NCIS, which is still on the air and also being syndicated by USA Network. At some point, the cable providers themselves will find it necessary to change their own business models, which is why much of the consolidation and acquisition that has been taking place in that sector of the economy lately has been on the content side rather than on the side of building up subscribers for a technology that clearly seems to be on the way out.
Eventually these changes in the way people view their entertainment will hit the area of broadcasting where the real money is, sports. Currently, all of the major sports leagues have contracts with broadcast and cable networks, but they also have begun developing their own versions of streaming services that allow people to watch live games somewhere other than on a television. Major League Baseball has been running a fairly profitable streaming service for several years now, for example, and the National Football League has gotten into the act in recent years. This year’s Super Bowl, for example, was streamed live for free, and while the 1.3 million people who viewed the game this way was dwarfed by the television audience, it was an excellent example of what we can expect to see in the future. Just yesterday, it was announced that the NFL and Yahoo had reached a deal that will have Yahoo streaming a game live in October. Eventually, we’re likely to see ESPN start offering its own streaming service, and possibly the leagues themselves, or individual teams, following suit. These are small steps, but they are a sign of what is coming. One suspects that when the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL media contracts come up for renewal again, there will be changes made that will reflect the new role of streaming media and the Internet.
Nobody can say for sure what the future media landscape is going to look like. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that it seemed like the cable providers would be dominant well into the future. What we can predict, though, is that the way you watch news, entertainment and sports will be very different a decade from now than it is today.