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Showtime joins the standalone-streaming race with cheaper prices

Showtime challenges HBO, Netflix and cable service providers with a new standalone streaming service through its mobile application.

The premium cable network is making its content available to any customer, without a cable subscription, for $10.99 a month through streaming on its app. The over-the-top-service allows consumers to skirt around the traditional cable packaging purchases and for Showtime to extend to a broader audience not interested in cable subscription, much like what services such as HBO Now and Netflix provide. 

"Developing a stand alone streaming service not only allows television networks to broaden their reach by tapping into people who are not subscribed to cable but it also helps them work towards gaining independence from cable operators," said Shuli Lowy, marketing director at Ping Mobile, New York. "A 2014 Neilson report showed that consumers watch an average of 17 of the 189 cable channels their forced to buy. 

"Consumers have become increasingly frustrated that they have to buy a full base cable channel package and then get add ons just to watch the one channel they are interested in," she said. The model does not make sense and is bound to break as alternatives come to the market."

"HBO?s move to launch a standalone service proved that consumers are willing to switch platforms. Consumer affinity is to the content not the cable operators."  

Competition rates high
Streaming is available to any customer that downloads the app and pays the monthly fee. The service directly threatens HBO by offering a significantly cheaper price, as HBO Now is $14.99 a month. 

The service opens Showtime up to a significantly greater consumer base, a potential of tens of millions. The network is partnering with Apple for Showtime to be available on all Apple devices such as iPhones, iPads, Apple TV and iPods. 

The standalone service launches July 12 to coincide with two of its summer series premieres, Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex. It will offer on-demand streaming of all past and present Showtime series as well as documentaries, films and sports programming. 

Showtime is offering a free 30-day trial for new customers to attract additional subscribers. Consumers can sign-up through any device within in the Showtime app. 
The influx of over-the-top streaming services can threaten cable service producers as this allows consumers more control over their network subscriptions and could cause subscribers to drop out. The price freedom along with the on-demand viewing elements may create a substantial upset for cable providers. 

A video ad campaign has been launched on YouTube, social media and television to promote and publicize the Showtime service. 

Showtime is no stranger to innovation, especially through mobile. Its digital advertising is known for its eye-popping content and originality of technology use.
Creating interesting, unique ad content without intruding on the user experience is critical to the network, according to an executive from Showtime at the 2015 Mobile: IAB Marketplace New York (see more). 

Streaming on-demand growth
The cable network?s on-demand service follows in the footsteps of its parent company, CBS, which launched a similar service last year, CBS All Access. The streaming app gives subscribing customers access to all its programming as well as its affiliate programming for a fee of $6 a month. 

Amazon also attempted to dominate the mobile streaming sector by producing and acquiring original films for early distribution on its Amazon Prime Instant Video platform, suggesting that consumers continue to demand a wider variety of movie viewing options on mobile devices (see more). 

"Any company working towards a streaming service undoubtedly needs to have a mobile in that mix," Ms. Lowy said. "One major television network I work with has over 90 percent of their anywhere streaming traffic come from mobile. 

"Consumers subscribing for anytime streaming are going to be doing a lot of that on their mobile device," she said. "Any television network working to make the switch needs to make sure that the alternative offered to consumers provides a seamless standalone experience which consumers can access from their phones, desktops, and tablets. 

"Showtime will not be the last television network to launch a standalone service. The shift we are seeing is not good news for cable operators, the loss of exclusive gateways to quality content channels translates into fewer renewals and subscriptions for cable operators."