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Is Showtime Doomed as a Standalone Streaming Service?

Can Showtime survive as a streaming service? In the arms race against Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and others, insiders worry they’ve become hopelessly outgunned.

Business Insider spoke with sources close to Showtime and found out more about the company’s practices. Compared to others in the streaming market, Showtime seems to be doing things more traditionally. For now, Showtime is a standalone service, while other similar services feature bundles of content from multiple sources. As the streaming industry evolves, the companies within it should too, but Showtime appears stuck on square one.

Part of that may be because parent company ViacomCBS is pushing all its chips to Paramount+. If properties from Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, and the Star Trek universe live on that platform, Showtime’s more adult content would add a nice compliment. Instead, Showtime is forced to stand alone. Perhaps that’s why ViacomCBS’s president of streaming has hinted that a bundle may be on the way.

Showtime leaders have decided to stick with a couple of genres of content. But that’s not going over well with insiders, who think the movies and shows need to diversify. A planned series based on the video game hit “Halo” might have done the trick, but ViacomCBS yanked it to go to Paramount+.

Currently, Showtime is trying to find new hits in the same vein as their already successful ones, like “Shameless” and “Homeland.” They aren’t necessarily branching out and trying new things, which may be preventing them from rising to the top. A talent-agency source explained, “They’re looking at things to replace the things they have, rather than thinking about things they already should have.”

As those old hits fade, Showtime’s inability to replace them is leading to an abnormally high churn rate. Only Apple TV+ loses subscribers faster than Showtime. See the dark blue line below.

One of the sources interviewed thinks that Showtime’s budget might be limiting the company. They said, “A chronic problem which continues to plague Showtime is a lack of investment. You’ve got Netflix out there outspending everyone, and you’ve got WarnerMedia lining up the entire organization behind HBO Max almost in a brutal way. They’re playing for keeps. … You have to be really really committed to your streaming strategy, and that means spending money and lining up the organization in a way that promises to accomplish the goal.”

In fact, Credit Suisse estimated ViacomCBS would spend $4 billion on streaming content by 2024, compared to Netflix’s $22.5 billion, Disney’s $15 billion, and HBO Max’s $10 billion-plus. Remember, Showtime only gets a fraction of the $4 billion, while the bulk would presumably head to Paramount+.

At this point, it looks like Showtime will continue its same practices, but the lack of diverse content may eventually be the downfall of this streaming service. A former Showtime staffer says, “Showtime is a mixed bag. There’s good brand awareness, but I feel that the network has recently lost some pizzazz. It doesn’t have the same cultural weight it had five to 10 years ago.”

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