11 May 2010

CBS's Showtime Said to Test Online Service for Cable Channel's Subscribers‏


CBS Corp.’s Showtime is developing an online video service for subscribers, according to a person with knowledge of the plans, joining rival cable channels that are seeking to reach customers away from TV sets.

The service would be similar to the Web access being tested by Time Warner Inc.’s HBO, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. Showtime, with 18 million pay-TV subscribers and original shows including “Nurse Jackie” and “Weeds,” hasn’t set a starting date.

Premium cable channels are experimenting with ways to offer service online and to mobile customers without cannibalizing monthly pay-TV subscription fees that contribute the bulk of their revenue. Showtime is discussing the planned service with pay-TV operators that distribute the channel, the person said.

“There’s nothing to announce at this time,” Johanna Fuentes, a spokeswoman for Showtime in New York, said in an interview.

HBO, which along with Cinemax has about 40 million subscribers, in February began offering HBO GO at no additional cost to customers on Verizon Communications Inc.’s FiOS TV service.

“All the HBO subscribers in the United States are going to have HBO programming on demand across every device,” Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner’s chief executive officer, said on a May 5 conference call. “That is a powerful offering.”

Starz, owned by Englewood, Colorado-based Liberty Media Corp., provides shows to Netflix Inc., which offers the cable channel’s content online as part of its monthly movie-rental subscription plans.

Viacom Inc.’s Epix, the premium movie channel first offered in October 2009, includes online access for all customers. Two- thirds have viewed movies online, with an average age of 36, according to a survey released today by Epix.

Epix, also owed by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., has distribution with pay-TV systems including Englewood, Colorado-based Dish Network Corp., Verizon’s FiOS, Cox Communications Inc. and St. Louis-based Charter Communications Inc.

CBS, owner of the most-watched U.S. television network, slid 75 cents, or 5 percent, to $14.21 on May 7 New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Time Warner fell 65 cents to $30.25 and Viacom Class B shares dropped 59 cents to $32.26. All are based in New York.

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