Apr 22, 2008

Is It Time To Cancel Showtime Yet?

Read something stupid today.

I tend to do that a lot these days.

I read that Viacom, cable masterminds behind the MTV Networks, BET, and Paramount Pictures, are launching a pay-TV network in fall 2009 along with Lion's Gate Films and MGM. Films from these studios (starting with those distributed by Paramount this year and the newer releases from the other studios next year) will be exclusive to the new unnamed network.

Here's why this is stupid to me.

You know there's a network named Showtime. It's a premium network that used to be owned by Viacom but now owned by corporate cousin CBS Inc., which used to be known as Viacom. See, the current company called Viacom is a newer company that was formed to concentrate on "core" industries like film and basic cable. The Showtime family of networks was essentially the anti-HBO at launch, picking up rights to films from studios not 100% committed to HBO. Over the years, HBO became the ultimate premium entertainment network and a newcomer, Starz, took Showtime's thunder by snatching up a bunch of studio licenses once held by both HBO and Showtime. As a result, the only studios that committed to Showtime were Paramount, Lion's Gate Films, and MGM.

Now, they won't even have those since they're moving to the new network.

Showtime is essentially outdoing HBO when it comes to original series now, but the premium movie network won't have any major studios providing new movies to the network beginning next year. Unless Showtime becomes a premium original series and original movies network, Showtime's original purpose of being a premium movie network is about to suffer as a result of Viacom's announcement. Perhaps the announcement will create a merger of sorts for Showtime considering Showtime is in a lot of homes (and Comcast, one of MGM's owners, one of the owners in this new endeavor, isn't beyond cannibalizing a network to place one of their own on a lineup [see TechTV . . . oh, wait, you can't]). Is Showtime on the outs? It doesn't look good, but stranger things have happened.