Maybe you’ve heard a bit about Showtime and you’re considering subscribing. You probably don’t know much about it yet – especially considering that its popularity pales in comparison with Netflix & Hulu. But you don’t choose a service just because it’s popular. You choose it because it’s good. So let’s take a look at Showtime with the intent of finding an answer to the question – is it good? What does the platform offer that its competitors don’t? And is it worth the cost?
How it Started
Launched in 1976, Showtime the company has now existed inside of two different millennia. Very few modern streaming services can make that claim. Back in the ‘70s, it was a premium television network that included a wide variety of programming, including theater-released films, original TV series, sports events, and stand-up comedy. In the early 2000s, the company launched Showtime on Demand, mostly so they could compete with HBO. In 2010, they got with the times and came out with Showtime Anytime, the first iteration of their online streaming service. Five years later, they released Showtime, the standalone service that has since become a force to be reckoned with in the premium-streaming arena.
How it Works
People are often confused about the differences between Showtime and Showtime Anytime. So here’s the deal: if you have a traditional subscription with Showtime through a participating TV provider, you have access to the Showtime Anytime app at no additional cost. Showtime, on the other hand, is a standalone service that you can sign up for without going through a TV provider. You can sign up for it directly, or through intermediaries like Roku, Android, or Amazon. The content on both platforms is identical, so the differences between the two are merely logistical. The cost of a membership is pretty standard. If you choose to pay on a month-to-month basis, you’ll be charged $10.99. If you opt into an annual subscription, that’ll cost $109.90. If you do the math, you’re essentially getting two months for free with the annual subscription. Once you’re subscribed, all you need is a supported device and you can stream any of the library’s on-demand content. All you need to do is download the app, which is available on all modern devices. You can also access the library through Showtime’s web client if you’re on your computer.
So, you’re wondering what kind of content Showtime offers, and whether it can compete with the big boys. Well, rather than boasting a huge library like Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video, Showtime focuses more on developing high-quality original programming. The philosophy here is definitely quality over quantity. The size of the library is minute compared to the industry giants. However, what that means is that there’s less junk. Let’s look at some of the series that belong to Showtime. Ready? – Shameless – Ray Donovan – Twin Peaks – Dexter – Who is America? – Kidding – Episodes – Homeland
The list goes on. And that list only includes series. Their selection of movies is decent, and their sports programming is pretty varied, too, with popular titles like Below the Belt with Brendan Schaub. If you’d like to browse the library, you can check it out here. You can download anything from the library for offline use, and you’ll never have to worry about commercials interrupting your favorite show.
So, as far as content goes, Showtime excels at the original series. It also offers a unique, albeit small selection of movies and sports programming (including live sports matches). Those expecting a centralized entertainment hub like Netflix are going to be sorely disappointed. Showtime is a premium television network who only releases content that is aligned with their brand’s image. In other words, they’re picky.
This pickiness has an upside. Rather than spending hours scrolling through an enormous library, with Showtime, what you see is what you get. You don’t have to wade through the digital murk to find something good. Spent five minutes browsing, and you’ll more or less see all there is to see. This is good – there are very few things more frustrating than sitting down to enjoy some downtime in front of the TV, only to be paralyzed by the endless possibilities on Netflix or Hulu.
If this sort of streaming model appeals to you, there’s one major thing you’ll want to consider. Standing in direct opposition to Showtime is HBO. Both are similar in their less is more approach, but many believe that HBO has the edge. It isn’t without its downsides, though, so it’s worth [reading more about HBO]((link this to our HBO Go review when it’s published) before you make your decision.
Design of the Website
Showtime’s landing page is simple and sleek. Unlike the clunky laughable mess of Prime Video’s UI, Showtime’s is straightforward and clean. This makes for a user-friendly experience, in which searching for a title or browsing the library is streamlined and intuitive. The client has a lot in common with Netflix, but with less clutter and no annoying auto-play previews overlaying the landing page. A single drop-down menu displays all the subcategories you’d want: series, movies, sports, comedy, documentaries, etc.
The mobile app experience will vary depending on whether you’re using Showtime Anytime or Showtime. If it’s the former, you may want to know that users have recently raised a red flag about the terms-and-conditions agreement you have to consent to when you download Showtime Anytime. The agreement gives Showtime rights over your user data that many think is excessive and unnecessary. I don’t know exactly what Showtime does with that data, but I think it’s important you’re aware of this.
Showtime Anytime is also kind of a stinker in terms of integration and performance. This is especially true when it comes to integrating it with a Smart TV. The process is needlessly complicated, and it may take multiple tries to do it successfully. Even when you do link them, the trouble isn’t over. The app frequently requires you to log in again, even if you’re sure that you’ve saved your credentials. While this is a small inconvenience rather than a glaring flaw, it’s annoying as hell, and should be fixed ASAP.
The standard Showtime app for users with a cable-network subscription is a bit better, but it still has its issues. I’m peeved by the download speeds, and I notice that my shows are buffering more often than they do on, say, Hulu. Still, the interface is fairly easy to navigate, and when things are running smoothly, I don’t have any issues.
Prime Video’s Strengths
So, now that I’ve given Showtime a brief overview, let’s recap its strengths. I really like the programming that this network offers, and although some prefer HBO, I’m going to stick by my guns and side with Showtime. Shows like Kidding, Who is America?, Shameless and Homeland are unique enough to win my nod of approval. Combined with commercial-free, downloadable content, an intuitive web client, and some decent live programming options, there’s a lot to like here.
Prime Video’s Weaknesses
Still, there’s a reason it’s not the most popular streaming service out there. As I said, the library is fairly small. If you don’t like Showtime’s original series, it’s unlikely that its movies, documentaries, or comedy specials are going to be enough to sell you. On top of that, at $10.99/month, it’s not cheap. Coupled with the inconveniences presented by the service’s mobile apps, there’s room for improvement.
The division between Showtime Anytime and Showtime (the standalone service) complicates the user experience, especially for new customers. We do understand the need to create separate portals for those who are going through a cable provider vs. those going directly through the company. Still, perhaps Showtime can find a way to integrate all its subscribers in one single platform. As it stands, the company has to split resources between the two for things like updating and troubleshooting both of the apps. I think that having a single app to focus on would result in a more expertly-crafted end product.