Showtime is unlocking a selection of original programming — for free, with ads — in a new channel on Pluto TV.
It’s a logical bit of corporate synergy between the two ViacomCBS-owned divisions, with Showtime ultimately looking to coax free viewers into customers forking over $10.99/month.
The new Pluto TV channel, Showtime Selects, launches on Tuesday (Dec. 1) with about 250 hours of uncensored originals. The lineup in the linear-style channel will include sneak peeks at the first episodes of Showtime drama series “Your Honor” starring Bryan Cranston and the 11th and final season of “Shameless” (pictured above). Showtime Selects also will feature select episodes of originals including “The Affair,” “Ray Donovan,” “Billions,” “The L Word” and “Californication” as well as the entire limited series “The Loudest Voice” about Fox News’ Roger Ailes and true-crime docuseries “Murder in the Bayou.”
Showtime — like HBO and other premium services — has long used free “sampling” promos to spur signups, and even Netflix has gotten into the game. What’s different about Showtime Selects on Pluto TV is that the channel will be permanently nailed up as a cross-promotional vehicle to reach the free streamer’s broad audience, which stood at 28.4 million unique monthly users as of Q3.
“We can handpick content from Showtime to reach a whole new audience on Pluto TV,” said Michael Engleman, Showtime’s chief marketing officer. “Our mission and Pluto TV’s mission is to provide a pathway to upgrade to subscriptions… We’d like it to run indefinitely.”
Engleman, who joined Showtime in July 2019 after serving as CMO for WarnerMedia’s TBS and TNT, added that “there’s a real mandate at ViacomCBS to identify accretive new growth opportunities…Part of our remit around streaming growth is finding new front doors to the brand.”
Showtime historically has bulked up its sampling promotions during the holiday season, when consumers buy news devices and overall streaming usage is up. Ultimately, Showtime wants to provide a way to click out from Pluto TV to subscribe immediately to the streaming service. That feature is in development at Pluto TV, according to a spokeswoman, who said, “We are currently developing and testing multiple products and features to act as a funnel into paid subscription services across ViacomCBS and other partners. Timing will be announced next year.”
The content on Pluto TV’s Showtime Selects channel will be updated on a monthly basis, and Pluto TV will promote tune-in to the channel from its menu. Engleman said the teams will work together to fine-tune the mix of programming to drive the best results.
Unlike with Showtime’s $11-per-month service, Showtime Selects on Pluto TV will include ads. Those will run as pre- and post-roll ads so they will not interrupt content, Engleman said: “It’s still a lovely premium experience, which was really important for us.” In some cases, Showtime content in the past has run top-and-tail ads (for example, in episodes of “Desus & Mero” that aired on MTV2).