Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod in Showtime’s “BILLIONS” original series.
World Paramount Executive David Nevins, who has run premium network Showtime since 2016, is leaving the company at the end of the year.
Along with his departure, Paramount Global is restructuring Showtime in a way that gives the company the flexibility to effectively end Showtime as it has existed for decades – as an independent premium cable network churning out high-profile hits like “Dexter “, “Weeds”, “Billions”, “Fatherland” and “Yellow Vests”.
Paramount Global announced Thursday that it is moving Showtime’s network business under Chris McCarthy, who manages other linear cable networks such as MTV and Comedy Central, and the streaming service under Tom Ryan, who manages Paramount Streaming..
The changes come as the company considers the idea of merging Showtime into Paramount+ and using the network’s hit programming to power Paramount+ subscriptions, according to people familiar with the matter. The company’s goal is to make Paramount+ one of the top five streaming services worldwide, with Discovery of Warner Bros.by HBO Max, Amazonfrom Prime Video, netflix and disney+, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.
No decision regarding the future of Showtime has been made and no changes are imminent, the people said.
“We are always exploring options to maximize the value of our content investment by giving consumers access to great Paramount content – including Showtime’s iconic, groundbreaking and premium content offerings – through a range of services and platforms,” a Paramount Global spokesperson said.
“This change has also given us the opportunity to more closely align our studios, networks and streaming operations as we execute our vision and strategy for the future,” Chief Executive Bob Bakish said in the statement. .
The unclear future of Showtime
Paramount+ a 43.3 million subscribers worldwide and plans to reach 100 million by 2024. The company did not detail its Showtime subscriber count but latest report of around 64 million subscribers on all of its streaming services – Paramount+, Showtime, noggin, BET+ and a few other smaller products. Bakich too said earlier this year that Showtime lost 500,000 subscribers in the first quarter as millions cancel linear pay TV each year.
Paramount Global announced a bundle promotion in August, allowing Paramount+ subscribers to watch Showtime content in the Paramount+ app for $7.99 per month with ads or $12.99 per month without ads. The offer was the first step toward potentially making Showtime a tile within Paramount+, merging the two services entirely, the people said.
One of the obstacles to the collaboration between Showtime and Paramount+ is the existing pay-TV distribution agreements. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Paramount discussed simply shutting down the standalone Showtime network with at least one pay-TV partner.
Another idea being considered by Paramount Global executives is to move originals and movies from Paramount+ to Showtime, effectively making Showtime a mirror of Paramount+ content that doesn’t appear on other television networks, said two of the people. This could appease pay-TV providers, who could adjust prices against the merged streaming product.
Showtime’s potential move to Paramount+ reflects a broader trend in media and entertainment. HBO, Starz, Showtime and Epix — premium cable networks that have long existed as complements to basic cable — lack the scale to survive against the biggest streaming services. Therefore, they are looking for ways to add content and expand their audience. HBO content is featured on HBO Max, which will merge with Discovery+ next year. Starz is looking to spin off from Lionsgate so it can eventually merge with other content providers to gain scale.
Eliminating Showtime as an independent entity would also result in cost savings through headcount reductions, such as the departure of Nevins, and technology and marketing duplications.
WATCH: CNBC’s full interview with Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish