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The fate of Showtime has become something of a thorny question for the wider Paramount group. While successful in itself, it does pale next to the wider promise of Paramount+. Additionally, we are seeing questions about the sustainability of trying to prioritize both services for one company. Our entertainment attorney on the ground, Brandon Blake of Blake & Wang P.A, unpacks what we know as rumors swirl about its future.

Is a Platform Merger Ahead?

This week we saw sources at the Wall Street Journal suggest that Paramount was considering discontinuing the Showtime streaming services in favor of folding them into the wider Paramount+ family. This merger is already a reality in some of Paramount’s international markets. Nor did upper management rush to deny this proposition, either. Instead, we received strong hints that they are considering the merger, but that nothing is fixed in stone and there’s no immediate plans for it.

Currently, the strongest hints we have are that it could be folded into a pay-TV partner. An act, of course, which would require some viable incentives for an interested cable partner. These deals do inevitably get quite complicated, however, especially with varying contract lengths and other issues. To add some more muddiness to the mix, Paramount+ and Showtime reportedly have very little overlap in subscriber bases.

Niche Streaming is Changing

However, jettisoning Showtime may make more sense from a cost-cutting perspective. As the streaming market has become more and more saturated, the space for niche streamers has gotten harder to sustain. Unable to match the larger content budgets of big services, they tend to slip out of the public’s recognition without a strong brand focus.

Paramount+ is already not a particularly larger streamer. Additionally, we have the hovering specter of the HBO Max/Discovery+ merger to consider, which will again change the streaming landscape. While that particular merger is still a long time coming- it is currently anticipated for Summer 2023- it makes sense that Paramount could have its eye on this close competitor.

Paramount+ currently has around 43M subscribers, with the other niche services owned by Paramount (Showtime, BET+ and Noggin) contributing a further 20M, the bulk of which belongs to Showtime. In the last quarter, Paramount+ added 5.2M subscribers. The others could account for only 300,000.

And Parmaount have been pushing hard to open up space for their main streamer. We’ve recently seen them partner with the Walmart+ subscription bundle, as well as push a merged Showtime/Paramount+ deal.

So they are already trying to merge the two consumer bases pretty aggressively- even offering a substantially discounted promotional price. Paramount have always had a significant advantage in an immensely broad and old content library, which coupled with a relatively low price, has brought them reasonable success over time. 

With a looming goal of making it to 100M global subscribers by 2024, offering a single experience option may be more strategically smart for them than continuing to run one medium and one small streaming entity. While there’s no concrete plans (yet) to merge the two or offload Showtime, it seems inevitable that we will reach that point sooner rather than later. For now, however, we will have to wait and see.


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