Do Movies Matter on Pay TV?

Why do you subscribe to HBO or Showtime, is it for the movies or the original series? It’s a question that sprang to mind when Viacom, Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM announced they were creating a new pay TV network. There was a lot of hubbub over Showtime losing all of those theatrical films, but in a post-Sopranos, Weeds-filled era, do movies on pay TV networks even matter anymore?

To find out, I spoke with reps from both Showtime and HBO, and the answer I got was a mixed bag.

Perhaps it’s just putting on a brave face in light of its loss, but Showtime says that while movies are still important to the network, more people are signing up for the original series like The Tudors and Dexter. According to the Showtime spokesperson, 18 of the network’s top 20 shows in 2007 were originals.

Showtime reasons that by the time a movie gets to a pay network (which could be 12-18 months after its theatrical release), it’s already been made available on DVD, iTunes, even airplanes. So the draw isn’t there for people.

Elsewhere on the programming guide, HBO paints a different picture. In its research, the network found that 70 percent of respondents listed theatrical movies as the most important reason for their subscription, and that 40 percent of subscribers watch only theatrical films, not the original series.

Both networks agree that the originals are important for creating buzz. Indeed, no one is taking out a billboard to announce that Harry Potter is premiering on HBO, and reporters aren’t going to write about Casino Royale popping up on Showtime.

I was surprised by the HBO numbers. As a former HBO and Showtime subscriber, the only reason I shelled out a stupid sum of money over to my cable company was to get shows like The Wire and Weeds. But that could be because I’m an early-adopting media hound.

I’m curious as to what NewTeeVee readers think. If you subscribe to a TV service, why did you sign up and what do you watch? Take our poll and leave a comment.

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