So, what the heck is the plan, Paramount?
That’s the question being raised by a new investigation from Insider, which paints a picture of uncertainty from within Showtime about the company’s ability to weather the streaming wars. Speaking with two former Showtime employees and three individuals identified as being close to Showtime, Insider reported that these individuals have questioned the company’s viability long-term as well as its content strategy where it relates not only to rival services but sister service Paramount+ as well. (Paramount+ is currently only available in the U.S.)
One source identified as being close to Showtime pointed to the switch-up in the streaming home for the forthcoming Halo series as being a “bad sign” for Showtime. Deadline reported in February that the series, which was originally slated for release on Showtime, would premiere instead on Paramount+ during the first quarter of 2022.
David Nevins, Chief Creative Officer at CBS and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Showtime Networks, said at the time that the company was “on the hunt for signature shows beyond the Star Trek franchise on CBS All Access and were thinking, what could be a defining series for Paramount+,” despite the show being developed specifically to widen Showtime’s appeal.
A spokesperson for Paramount+ did not immediately return a request for comment. Reached for comment about the company’s content strategy, a spokesperson for Showtime stated that Halo’s move to Paramount+ was a strategic decision that centered on finding the right home for the right series. The spokesperson further pointed Gizmodo to the company’s February Investor Day event when asked about the overarching content strategy for the two services.
During that call, the company’s leadership was asked about churn and the decision to keep the services separate, specifically with respect to budget. ViacomCBS boss Bob Bakish responded that the company liked “the two lanes that we see, one for Paramount+ and one for Showtime.”
“Paramount+, in its prior iteration as CBS All Access, and Showtime had very strong performance on the subscriber side and subscriber revenue side,” Bakish added. “And they both have distinct positionings, and we believe in brand positionings. We think that’s important for consumers to understand what they’re buying and navigate a sea of choice.”
That’s all fine and well, but ViacomCBS very much seems to be putting all of its eggs in one very late-to-the-party basket. It’s curious that a service that already has so much going on — at many times, to the extent that feels chaotic — would decide to house such an anticipated series on its newer service rather than its legacy premium content outlet. Sure, it makes good business sense to draw subscribers to the company’s shiny new product on its own, but where the heck does that leave Showtime?
Showtime is something of a supplementary service — one where users can expect to find high-calibre entertainment rather than a deluge of confusing brands and content genres shuffled in together a la HBO Max or Paramount+. But it’s also pricey for what it is at $US11 ($14) per month, and it’s a little difficult to understand why ViacomCBS wouldn’t want to use a title like Halo to help retain and even draw in new customers. If Showtime wasn’t ever going to be rolled into Paramount+ as part of its total package rather than an add-on service — which is also a bit of a head-scratcher — shouldn’t the company be investing there as well?
Every service is really competing against three primary competitors right now: WarnerMedia, Netflix, and Disney. There are far too many services from which to choose. Eventually, it’s possible we could see smaller streaming services merge as part of a longer-term business strategy. But in the meantime, it’s a fight for survival. And it’s hard to imagine that Showtime is going to have a chance in hell if it’s stuck in Paramount+’s shadow.