Showtime may sometimes weary of comparisons to HBO, but the rollout of its online app is cribbing from its rival's script.
The premium cable network said Tuesday that it would launch a standalone streaming service in early July, three months after HBO introduced a similar offering, HBO Now. Like its rivals' product, Showtime's app will provide unlimited viewing of the channel's original series, movies and other programming.
And, like HBO Now, Showtime's first partner is Apple. That means people who own devices like the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV are the only ones able to sign up, until other partners are announced. People who sign up through Apple in July will get a 30-day free trial, similar to HBO Now's launch.
One key difference, however, is price: Showtime's service, simply called Showtime, will cost $11 a month. HBO Now is $15 monthly. A Showtime spokeswoman also said that the app's Apple partnership is not exclusive, as HBO Now's was; other distribution partners will be announced before the launch.
The wave of streaming apps from popular TV programmers is their latest response to a shift in consumers' video habits toward more Internet viewing. As mobile and connected video grows, some viewers -- especially younger ones -- opt out of pricey traditional pay-TV packages in favor of online alternatives, known as cord cutting. The options make it easier -- though not necessarily cheaper -- for consumers to cut the cord.
But launching standalone digital services could harm the main way networks like Showtime make money: subscriptions through traditional cable and satellite providers. These channels are betting that the cost of ignoring consumers' growing demand for online viewing would be more costly down the road.
"Going 'over the top' means Showtime will be much more accessible to tens of millions of potential new subscribers," said Les Moonves, chief executive of Showtime parent CBS, referring to Internet delivery of content. "Across CBS, we are constantly finding new ways to monetize our programming by capitalizing on opportunities presented by technology." (CBS is also the parent company of CNET.)
The launch of Showtime's app will coincide with the new seasons of "Ray Donovan" and "Masters of Sex" on July 12. iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Apple TV users will be able to subscribe anywhere in the US, but the company said more platforms and providers will be announced soon.
Subscribers will have unlimited on-demand access to every season of Showtime's original series, including notable old shows like "Dexter," and hundreds of hours of movies, documentary and sports programming, as well as the live broadcast of the East and West Coast feeds of Showtime's linear channel.
Update, 12:57 pm PT: Adds mention of plans for partners other than Apple.