Showtime Launches, AMC Tests OTT Services

The stampede by major US TV programmers into the brave new world of over-the-top (OTT) video is continuing this week with the launch of Showtime's online video service and the reported plans of AMC Networks to follow suit shortly.

Several days earlier than expected, Showtime Networks Inc. introduced its new Showtime streaming service Tuesday. The à la carte service, which doesn't require a pay-TV subscription, offers on-demand access to all Showtime programming, including both the premium network's live East Coast and West Coast feeds. The service costs about $11 a month, notably less than the $15 a month that Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) is charging for its new standalone OTT service, HBO Now, after a free 30-day trial period. (See Showtime Joins OTT Parade .)

Like HBO, Showtime is timing the launch of its new service just before the July 12 season debuts of its two most popular series, Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex. HBO introduced HBO Now back in mid-April, just before it came out with the latest season of its biggest series, Game of Thrones.

Similar to HBO again, Showtime is initially offering its new online service through Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s family of devices, including the Apple TV, iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone. And, like HBO, it's working hard to extend its reach to other distribution outlets, having already signed up the media streaming platforms of Roku Inc. and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE).

But, unlike HBO, Showtime is also playing the OTT bundle game. In a unique distribution deal with Hulu LLC , Showtime and Hulu are offering the new Showtime streaming service for an additional $9 a month to Hulu's premium subscribers, or a total of about $17 a month. In addition, Showtime and Sony are discounting the Showtime service by $1 a month for Sony PlayStation Plus members. (See Hulu Teams Up With Showtime in OTT Bundle.)

Such moves could potentially set off a price war among the various new programmer OTT services as they all jockey for position behind market leader Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX). The moves could also lead to more OTT bundles, making the OTT market look more like the traditional pay-TV market.

Want to know more about OTT video trends? Check out our dedicated OTT video content channel here on Light Reading.

With Showtime officially joining the programmer OTT parade along with parent CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), HBO, A&E Network, Nickelodeon and Tennis Channel, the list keeps getting longer. And it promises to get longer still with the reported plans of AMC Networks Inc. to launch a streaming service focusing on horror movies. (See A&E Launches Lifetime OTT Service .)

As first reported by Variety last month, AMC is now beta-testing the planned new service, known as Shudder. Although AMC has not yet revealed when the streaming service will launch, plans call for offering it for about $5 a month, the same price that A&E is now charging for its new Lifetime Movie Club service, or $50 a year.

Similar to the major programmers that have already made the OTT plunge, AMC intends to deliver Shudder through Apple, Android and Roku streaming devices, as well as the new network's website.

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

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