Showtime Joins OTT Parade

Following in the footsteps of CBS, HBO and other major TV programmers, Showtime plans to launch its own over-the-top video service for broadband subscribers next month.

CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS) announced Wednesday that its Showtime Networks Inc. unit will trot out the new Showtime OTT service in early July, about three months after Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) introduced HBO Now, and eight months after CBS introduced CBS All Access. The new broadband-only service will be priced at about $11 a month, about halfway between the $6-a-month fee for CBS All Access and the $15 monthly charge for HBO Now.

Similar to HBO, Showtime plans to time the launch of its new à la carte service to the season premieres of popular series. Just as HBO introduced HBO Now with the new season of Game of Thrones, Showtime will introduce its service with the July 12 season debuts of Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex.

Aping the HBO Now strategy again, the new Showtime will initially be available only on Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) devices, including iPods, iPhones and Apple TV. But like HBO, which has since signed up Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Sling TV and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) as distribution partners, Showtime intends to expand its reach as soon as possible. (See Dish to Sling HBO by Saturday .)

Want to learn more about OTT video, multiscreen and other next-gen video technologies? They will be a few of the many topics covered at Light Reading's second Big Telecom Event on June 9-10 in Chicago, which will include a special Video Summit. Sign up today!

"At Showtime, we're excited to offer consumers the opportunity to subscribe in new ways, by simply having an Internet connection," said Showtime Chairman & CEO Matthew Blank in a prepared statement. "Our intent is to make Showtime available to viewers via every manner possible, giving them an enormous amount of choice in accessing our programming."

With the Showtime OTT announcement, which had been expected for months, the big question is which major TV programmer will go it alone on the web next. The betting here is on ESPN, which has always been a pioneer in testing new video formats and business models and is already part of the "skinny TV" OTT bundle that Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH)'s Sling TV is offering for $20 a month, along with Fox Broadcasting Co. and Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), two other video pioneers.

In related news, Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) announced yesterday that it will stream the first live NFL football game on the web globally later this year. That step forward for live sports, combined with the launch of numerous new OTT services, should push Internet streaming to new heights in 2015.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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