Showtime Becomes The First Premium Service To Be Offered By Hulu

Hulu and Showtime are announcing a notable partnership today that will see Showtime’s premium streaming service made available to Hulu’s nearly 9 million subscribers. This marks the first time that Hulu has ever distributed a premium network’s content on its service, which until now has featured programming from five of the top six biggest U.S. broadcast networks as well as its own original shows.

The news of the partnership follows Showtime’s announcement earlier this month that it’s preparing to launch its own standalone streaming service, modeled to some extent after HBO’s over-the-top option called HBO NOW. Debuting on July 12, the new service will provide access to Showtime’s shows, movies and sports content for $11 per month. However, unlike HBO NOW, the service also includes both the East and West Coast live feeds for Showtime.

But what’s interesting about the Hulu deal is the price point for subscribers – Hulu users can add CBS-owned Showtime for $8.99 per month on top of the $7.99 per month for Hulu itself. Hulu is effectively subsidizing the cost of the addition – the company, we understand, wants to be aggressive on price point out of the gate in an effort that’s designed to both retain current users and attract new ones.

While the Showtime service will include its own applications that run on Apple devices including the iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple TV, as well as on Roku and PlayStation Vue, by teaming up with Hulu, Showtime has the potential to reach even more devices without having to explicitly build the supported software itself.

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The companies note that, thanks to their partnership, Showtime subscribers will be able to stream content through the Hulu app that runs on iOS and Android devices, Apple TV, Xbox One, Wii and Wii U, Roku players and TVs, PS3 and PS4, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Chromecast and various TVs and Blu-ray players.

“We are always looking to give our subscribers access to the best content available,” said Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins in a statement about the deal. “The robust slate of Showtime original programming, movies, and specials together with Hulu’s strength in current season programming, library acquisitions and original programming makes a powerful combination.”

The addition of Showtime’s premium content could lay the groundwork for further expansions of this sort in the future. Today, there are a number of niche and premium over-the-top streaming services becoming available to those who want access to exclusive content.

For example, in addition to HBO NOW, CBS (a Hulu holdout when it comes to currently airing network shows) offers a service called CBS All Access, a combination of on-demand shows and live TV feeds. Plus, Viacom-owned Nickelodeon recently launched a kid-themed service called Noggin. But these smaller efforts may struggle to attract an audience amid a crowded streaming media landscape that includes big names like Amazon and Netflix, in addition to VOD offerings from pay TV providers.

By tying themselves to Hulu as a distribution partner, these services could grow their user base and reach more devices without having to do as much advertising, marketing and software development of their own. And Hulu’s willingness to discount the pricing for add-on services could help encourage more sign-ups.

Hulu today doesn’t have any announced plans to add more services like Showtime, but the idea isn’t being discounted. Hulu’s technology and product teams have already done the work to build the infrastructure to support premium add-ons, which leads to the possibility of future expansions.

As with Showtime’s standalone offering, the Showtime/Hulu integrations will also launch on July 12th – a date picked to coincidence with the premieres of two of Showtime’s better-known shows, “Ray Donovan” and “Masters of Sex.”