With Standalone Showtime Service, Will 2015 Be The Year Of The Cord-Cutter?

theaffairIf you recently read the announcement that HBO and Starz would each soon be launching their own standalone streaming services and thought, “Well, I still can’t dump cable because then I wouldn’t be able to watch Showtime,” here’s some good news — the network is planning to launch its own online-only service at some point in 2015, which may remove the final barricade to cord-cutting for some consumers.

Speaking to investors yesterday, CBS CEO Les Moonves said that Showtime will “fairly definitively” be offering a standalone online product starting next year.

“We can say sometime in 2015 there will be some service from Showtime,” clarified Moonves.

If HBO and Showtime both make their streaming services (HBO Go and Showtime Anytime, respectively) available to consumers as they currently are (i.e., with the same libraries of content and same-day release of new shows; Showtime even has live-streaming of the network feed on its app), then 2015 could end up being the year that millions of Americans defect from basic cable and go online-only.

Of course, this will depend heavily on what HBO and Showtime charge for access. While they may get away with charging $10-15/month to cable subscribers, those rates are higher than what consumers currently pay for services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, which offer more expansive libraries of content.

It may also depend on the price point and channel lineup of the upcoming online-only live TV services from Dish Network and Sony. If someone can combine one of these packages with premium streaming from HBO and/or Showtime for less than their cable bill, the temptation to cut the cord might be too strong to resist.

Of course, everything ultimately depends on whether or not the cable companies — in their role as broadband providers — play along or if they try to impede these new ventures.

As Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable showed in their passive-aggressive spats with Netflix, they can allow Web traffic to bottleneck and slow down to the point where the streaming movie on your TV screen looks like it’s from a pirated low-quality VHS rip from 1999.

We previously suggested that HBO might be able to appease the cable company beasts by allowing them to continue doing the billing for the streaming service. That way, the ISPs can’t complain they aren’t getting a piece of the pie. It also saves HBO from having to get into the messy world of billing and customer service, which it’s successfully avoided for decades.

CBS, however, already has customer-facing billing services, so it may have to choose whether or not to give up some money to cable operators in order to guarantee that the Showtime streaming service isn’t neglected.

[via DSLreports.com and HuffPo]