The pact calls for a Showtime-branded collection of series, documentaries and specials to be made available as of today on Bell Media’s CraveTV SVOD service. Later in the year a Showtime-branded block will launch on Bell Media’s linear the Movie Network channel.
In the past Showtime had licensed individual shows to Bell Media outlets, just as it does with foreign TV outlets around the world. But the Showtime-branded blocks are a first for CBS Corp.’s pay TV service, which has grown dramatically in stature in the U.S. but has virtually no international presence as a brand unto itself. Rival HBO, on the other hand, has a broad footprint and has been focused on international expansion through dedicated HBO channels for more than a decade.
The deal with Bell Media marks the first time CBS has licensed the Showtime trademark for use by a foreign media company. The opportunity to do so in Canada underscores the strength of the Showtime brand — enhanced in recent years by buzzy hits including “Homeland,” “The Affair,” “Masters of Sex,” “Penny Dreadful” and “Shameless” — and the worldwide appetite for high-end exclusive programming to feed digital platforms.
“Showtime has clearly become one of TV’s preeminent brands, and its slate of world-class and award-winning scripted and unscripted series, documentaries and specials guarantee our subscribers more of the premium TV they want on the platform of their choice,” said Kevin Crull, Bell Media president.
The CraveTV collection will include hundreds of hours of programming and virtually all Showtime-owned shows. Bell Media has also licensed “Nurse Jackie,” owned by Lionsgate, and “Masters of Sex,” owned by Sony Pictures TV. It’s said to be in the midst of a deal with 20th Century Fox TV Distribution for rights to “Homeland.”
Some Showtime series, including “Dexter,” are tied up in existing deals. But the plan is for all Showtime fare to migrate to CraveTV and the Movie Network as older deals expire.
“This is a great moment in the history of Showtime, when for the first time our award-winning programming will be distributed and aggressively marketed as one brand beyond the United States,” said Showtime Networks prexy David Nevins. “Bell Media, with their incredible range of platforms, is uniquely positioned to present Showtime to Canadian audiences in whatever form they choose to watch us.”
Canada is a natural place for Showtime to begin an international expansion campaign. It’s likely that similar Showtime-centric licensing deals are on the drawing board in key TV markets.
“The Showtime premium brand is growing in stature around the world as well as in the U.S., with acclaimed, highly successful programming that will stand out anywhere,” said Armando Nuñez, prexy-CEO of CBS Global Distribution Group.