By Adam Coleman
Subscription television brand, Showtime Australia, will change its channel line-up in a bid to streamline its movie content and continue a push into original, high-end drama in the style of US pay TV network HBO.
Showtime currently owns and operates four channels: Showtime, Showtime Two, Showtime Greats and Showcase, but on Sunday the brand will expand its portfolio to seven unique channels along with several high-definition (HD) additions.
Among the changes, Showcase – the brand’s flagship drama channel – will now be available in HD along with an additional channel called Showcase Two. Latest release movie channel, Showtime, will become Showtime Premier and will also be available in HD.
Repeat movie channel, Showtime Greats has been retired in favour of three genre channels – Showtime Action (HD), Showtime Drama and Showtime Comedy.
A time-shift channel, Showcase Two, has also been introduced to provide more movie viewing choice and alternate movie viewing times.
Showtime chief executive Peter Rose says the changes “were a logical step” to capitalise on the launch of Foxtel’s new satellite and enable the brand to expand its offering to pay TV networks Foxtel and Austar.
“We had the opportunity of working with Foxtel, firstly to upgrade a number of the channels to HD, which I think is pretty exciting. That is a fantastic technology particularly for movies and Showcase.”
“Then we started to listen to the public and what they said in terms of research. What was being said to us is that people, in essence, want to be able to find the movie they are in the movie for.”
“So, we thought [splitting movies into separate genre channels] was a very good way of organising the movies so people could come home and say ‘I really feel like a comedy, what is going to be on?’”.
Despite being expensive to make, original high-definition, high-end drama in the style of HBO productions from the US, remains an important focus for the brand.
“We have branched out and basically copied the HBO model,” Showtime director of legal and business affairs Anthony Mrsnik told an audience at the Up Close & Digital event in Sydney this week.
“The average [production cost] is around $700,000 to $750,000 per episode. We would like to see that money back, but the idea is to attract subscribers to the service. We want high-end, high-concept, high-quality.”
Showtime has now commissioned two new Australian dramas, Tangle and Satisfaction, along with a third season of award-winning drama Love My Way.
The brand is also in pre-production with a series adaption of the Tim Winton novel, Cloudstreet. Showtime fully-funded all the new series.
According to Rose, Australian audiences are “out there in a big way” looking for original high-end drama, and Showcase remains one of the brand’s most requested channels.
“One of the unique aspects of subscription television is that you have such a direct relationship with the audience and not via an advertiser so that you can actually engage in doing really challenging drama.
“In a way these are the new movies because they are a very interesting way of telling stories.
“The real measure for me is that subscribers are growing and if you talk to the sales people, [Showcase] is one of the most requested channels.”