Showtime’s got some good shows, but streaming them requires yet another subscription. However, according to Variety, the premium channel is now adding a smattering of its original programming to a free channel on Pluto TV.
If you don’t already know what Pluto TV is, it’s a free streaming service owned by ViacomCBS that gives you channels of content based on pre-existing properties. There’s the expected stuff like CNN live news, but also weird stuff. Like a channel that only does Baywatch. And wait—isn’t Showtime also owned by ViacomCBS? Yup. The move is obviously a synergistic one, but it’s also meant to serve as bait. The new channel will be dubbed Showtime Selects and will feature roughly 250 hours of uncensored original Showtime Shows. Variety reports that it’ll include sneak peeks at the upcoming Bryan Cranston drama Your Honor, as well as the final season of Shameless. It’ll also have “select episodes” of series like The Affair, Ray Donovan, Billions, The L Word, and Californication. The channel will also include the entire limited series The Loudest Voice and the true-crime docuseries Murder in the Bayou.
Note the whole “selected episodes” bit. So while Showtime fans on a budget will bring more viewers to Pluto TV, ViacomCBS is also banking on folks getting hooked and ponying up for a Showtime subscription to find out what happens next. This is a similar tack to the free Showtime trials you can get via Hulu or Amazon Prime Video, but the main difference is that Showtime Selects will be a permanent, cross-promotional thing. The content will also be updated monthly and will be supported by pre-roll ads. ViacomCBS is also purportedly working on a built-in feature so that viewers can easily click out from Pluto TV to subscribe to Showtime’s standalone service.
Why not just make Showtime shows available on Paramount+, yet another streaming service owned by ViacomCBS? Money, silly. Around the time CBS All Access was rebranded to Paramount+, ViacomCBS Chief Executive Bob Bakish told the Wall Street Journal that Showtime was “strong enough enough to stand on its own.” That’s debatable. Though the WSJ notes that Showtime, like other streaming services, saw an uptick due to the pandemic, it’s still estimated to have 27 million subscribers—far less than the 36 million and 60 million subscribers for HBO and Netflix, respectively.
So long as you’re OK with ViacomCBS trying to reel you in by dangling free content, Showtime Selects on Pluto TV isn’t a terrible proposition. You can start streaming the channel today, and hey, at least this “free trial” doesn’t come with a 7-day time limit.