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The curtain’s coming down on Showtime... sort of

The curtain’s coming down on Showtime... sort of

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The Showtime cable network isn’t dead, but it isn’t alive, and it is definitely confusing.

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An image of two men from the Showtime show Billionaires with the Showtime logo beneath them on one side of the image. On the other side of the image is a character from Star Trek: Discovery with the Paramount Plus logo beneath her.
Now...they are together.
Image: Paramount Plus

The Showtime cable network feels like it’s in a quantum state, both very much dead and very much alive. Only, I think more people will understand quantum states than what’s going on with the network this week, which is now being renamed Paramount Plus with Showtime.

Try to squeeze that mouthful into a cable guide.

Variety is reporting that the rebranding of the traditional Showtime TV channel will go into effect on January 8th, 2024. Showtime’s parent company, Paramount, made the announcement today with a new launch video that indicates a small collection of Paramount Plus shows like Halo, Star Trek: Discovery, and Taylor Sheridan’s Mayor of Kingstown will be coming to the newly christened channel.

Notably absent from the list are Paramount Plus’ best shows, like 1923, The Good Fight, and Picard.

The rationale is similar to one Paramount gave earlier this year when it initially announced this all was coming. The company has two really good assets and it needs to blend them together and have them work both for people like my mom, who doesn’t know her Netflix login (its mine), and people like me, who should probably scale back on how many streaming services she subscribes to.

But blending them together does mean Showtime as its own brand is effectively toast. The channel, which initially focused on screening movies after they left the theater, branched into prestige dramas at the same time as HBO and has produced plenty of critically acclaimed hits over the years — most recently, the delicious Yellowjackets show.

Meanwhile Paramount Plus has churned out a lot of critically acclaimed content but has been slower than competitors (like Max / HBO Max) to build buzz or a big base of subscribers. Now, rather than fold Showtime into Paramount Plus as a channel similar to how HBO was folded into Max, Paramount has opted to sort of blend the two together and use the linear cable channel as marketing for the streaming service.

And I don’t hate that idea. It’s flirted with it before, periodically airing content like The Good Fight and Star Trek on CBS to try to catch more subscribers. But this is more than just trying to build synergy. Showtime is very much being sacrificed as a brand to help build up Paramount Plus.

And this has all happened while contracts between Showtime and cable providers remain inconsistent, which means some Showtime subscribers will get a Paramount Plus with Showtime streaming subscription gratis and some will only have access to Showtime shows on demand. Who gets what will depend entirely on whom your cable provider is.

As linear TV, and linear cable in particular, shifts from being the way we all watch TV to the way only our grandparents watch TV, there are going to be even more weird instances like this. More major networks you have a fondness for are going to be doing more rebranding as confusing as quantum physics.