Cord cutting fans of Showtime programming such as Homeland, House of Lies, and Masters of Sex will finally be able to stream those shows online directly from the pay TV provider in 2015. That's according to Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, Showtime's parent company. "We could say fairly definitively, sometime in '15, there will be some service [online streaming service] from Showtime," Moonves said during CBS' third-quarter earnings announcement on Wednesday.
This is the second time that Moonves has said Showtime would soon offer a standalone online streaming service; he made similar comments to The New York Times in October.
Like HBO, Showtime has offered a streaming service for several years, but access to it requires a cable subscription.
Why this matters: Seven years after Hulu first appeared online, we may finally be seeing the beginning of the end of cable company dominance. HBO also plans to introduce a standalone streaming service in the coming months. And CBS has already announced CBS All Access, a $6 per month streaming service for select current and classic CBS shows, as well as local live TV. But cable companies still have big sway over the likes of HBO and CBS, and there may be a few rounds of fighting yet before we enter a true cord-cutter's paradise.
With All Access and the company's intention to offer a similar package for Showtime, CBS is quickly becoming the leader among broadcasters embracing online audiences. CBS was famously the lone Hulu holdout among the major broadcasters until 2012.
In 2011, Moonves explained how he decided not to join Apple's rumored Apple TV streaming service (whatever that was supposed to be), because he didn't have faith the service would work.
But how times have changed. In addition to All Access and Showtime streaming, CBS in August said it would soon produce original programming for "major streaming" companies.
While the move to online cord-cutting services will be a boon for everyone tired of setting a DVR, there are some pitfalls that could come with the new model. Without the package deal that many cable companies offer, cord cutters can simply pick and choose which services they want and how often they want to pay for them.
A recent article from The Wall Street Journal illustrated this when it noted that Netflix is having a hard time wooing new customers thanks to its rate increase from $8 to $9 per month for new subscribers. That lower uptake in new customers was offset a little by the return of Orange Is the New Black for a second season.
But that raises the question of whether we're headed for a situation where subscribers sign-up and drop various streaming services based on what's playing.
The Journal reported one pay TV executive worrying that standalone streaming services could get waves of new subscribers when a new season of a popular show debuts--Game of Thrones for instance. But then those same subscribers disappear just as quickly once the credits roll on the season finale.
An interesting challenge, then, will be for content producers to give subscribers a reason to keep paying every month. CBS All Access can probably rely on its back catalog and live local broadcasts to keep adding value.
While others like HBO and Showtime will need an attractive mix of original programming and big name movies to keep subscribers coming back for more.