Paramount CEO confirms discussions over winding down Showtime

Showtime content appears within the Paramount Plus app on August 31, 2022. (Graphic by The Desk)

The chief executive of Paramount Global confirmed the company is strategizing over ways to wind down an online-only version of the premium movie network Showtime.

The comments, made by Paramount Global CEO Robert Bakish this week at an investor conference, largely confirmed a report published by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that said Paramount was thinking about moving Showtime’s content exclusively to Paramount Plus.

Bakish dismissed the majority of the Journal’s report as a “rumor” based largely off a single conversation Paramount executives had with an unnamed pay television service. But he confirmed that the company is kicking around the idea of moving Showtime’s content to Paramount Plus, while possibly still supporting the brand’s multiplex movie network for cable and satellite customers.

“It shouldn’t surprise you that as we look to have optionality in the future and benefit from the learnings that will go forward over time, that we might want to have a conversation about, ‘Yeah, maybe we could combine two things and this is what it would look like,'” Bakish said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia & Tech Conference. “What we’re constantly focused on is, how do we make more out of our content for consumers and our products more valuable to them, and by extension, more valuable to distributors.”

Bakish said those strategy sessions are good for business, and that if Paramount wasn’t considering ways to maximize the potential of its content catalog — which includes Paramount Pictures, CBS, MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon — “you should fire all of us, because we should have that conversation.”

“It’s not like we’ve made a decision that we’re going to do something on such-and-such a date,” Bakish said. “But I guarantee you that media will continue to evolve. I guarantee you that our product line will continue to evolve and get better. And I guarantee you that we will continue to work with distributors and provide value to them such that they benefit.”

The CBS side of Paramount Global operated Showtime prior to the company’s merger with Viacom Networks three years ago. In 2015, CBS announced it would offer Showtime as a standalone, subscription-based streaming service that offered the same content as what was found on its cable and satellite multiplex networks, but without viewers needing a pay television package.

The streaming version of Showtime has maintained a steady price since it was offered, charging customers $12 a month or $100 a year for access to Showtime’s licensed movies and TV shows as well as its documentary programming, sports shows and limited-run series.

Post-merger, Paramount Global wasted little time moving some shows from the Showtime service to Paramount Plus, a subscription streaming service born from the existence of CBS All Access. Last year, the sports conversation program “Inside the NFL” moved from Showtime to Paramount Plus — the first time the show was offered outside a premium movie network since it started on rival HBO in the 1970s.

Last month, Paramount further integrated Showtime into its Paramount Plus service when it announced a hard bundle that saw movies and TV shows accessed natively within the Paramount Plus app for an extra charge. Through early November, Paramount Global is offering Paramount Plus a special discount price when they add Showtime to their subscription — far less than what it would cost to buy each service separately — though the company said at the time it would continue to operate Showtime as a separate streaming service.

If Paramount Global were to unwind the Showtime streaming service, it is not clear how that would affect the company’s partnerships with other streaming providers. Currently, subscriptions to Showtime and Paramount Plus are offered through various third parties, including Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video Channels and the Roku Channel. Often, those subscriptions cost the same as what subscribers would be charged if they purchased each one directly through Showtime and Paramount Plus.