Showtime Offers a Web Taste

Oct 2, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Showtime plans to offer top-tier shows including “Weeds” on Yahoo TV, transplanting to the Internet the promotional techniques it has used on cable for years.

The Web preview of selections from Showtime’s slate, a first for a premium cable channel, will run Oct. 6-13. Showtime runs semiannual national previews that offer its fare to basic cable subscribers in hopes of spurring subscriptions.

“When we do a national free preview, the majority of cable systems participate, but not all,” said Robert Hayes, senior VP and general manager of Showtime Digital Media. “Doing it with Yahoo opens up a sampling opportunity to anybody who has an Internet connection in the United States.”

In addition to installments of “Weeds,” Showtime will offer episodes of “Dexter,” “Sleeper Cell,” “Brotherhood,” “The L Word,” “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” “Showtime Championship Boxing” and a first look at upcoming series “The Tudors.” The second-largest premium cable network by subscribers will edit the episodes to a TV-14 decency standard, and the Web promotion will coincide with a national preview from cable operators.

The network has actively embraced the Internet for promotion and sale of its content, putting episodes for sale on iTunes and offering premiere episodes free through online partners. HBO, the biggest premium cable channel, has preferred to use the Web for promotional clips and has reserved full episodes for its subscribers.

Showtime’s promotional tactics fit the network’s situation, said Will Richmond, president of Broadband Directions.

“This allows Showtime to have far greater visibility than traditional sneak previews on cable because it’s such a larger audience online,” he said.

Jupiter Research analyst Todd Chanko warned that Web promotions can put a network on a tightrope with cable operators.

“It’s tricky, because cable and satellite operators want people to watch TV … [while] Showtime displaying its wares online gets people accustomed to watching TV on the Internet,” he said.

An advertisement with an 800 number will run before and after each Showtime stream, prompting viewers to call for information about how to subscribe to the service via their cable or satellite operator.

“Since this is all supporting subscription acquisitions, we think it’s complementary [to operator goals],” Mr. Hayes said.