Although not as big as HBO, Showtime continues to be one of the very best premium channels with great original shows and live sports. And it’s easy to get without cable. Read on to learn all your options.
In a hurry? You can get the standalone Showtime streaming service, but it is usually easier to get it as part of a live TV streaming service. Here are our favorites:
- Sling TV: Get all the Showtime channels for $10/mo standalone or as an addon. Save 50% on your first month of Sling TV.
- FuboTV: Great for sports fans with an excellent deal on the Showtime, Starz, and Epix bundle. FuboTV allows you to try out its service free for 7 days.
- Hulu + Live TV: Wonderful overall streaming service that also includes Disney+.
Table Of Contents
Showtime is one of the original big four movie premium channels. The other three were HBO, Cinemax, and The Movie Channel. For almost half a century, Showtime has reliably brought major box office blockbusters, original series, and top sporting events into our homes.
But does it still offer enough bang for its buck? Let’s find out.
What Is Showtime
Showtime first launched in California on July 1, 1976 with a concert special Celebration featuring performances by Pink Floyd, ABBA, and Rod Stewart. In 1978, Showtime uplinked to a satellite and went national, going head to head with HBO.
Falcon’s Gold, Showtime’s first original movie, and Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre, its first original series, came along in 1982. In 1986, it added Showtime Championship Boxing. In 2006, Showtime added mixed martial arts to boxing, and in 2008, it rescued the long-running Inside the NFL after HBO canceled it.
1998 brought its first major Primetime Emmy (“Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie”) for George C Scott as Juror #3 in 12 Angry Men. The network officially stopped producing Showtime Original Pictures in 2006.
But in 2009 and 2010, brought home more Emmys, this time for Toni Collette (United States of Tara) and Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie). Homeland made a partial sweep in 2012 with Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Lead Actor (Damian Lewis), and Outstanding Lead Actress (Claire Danes). Danes would go on to win again in 2013, and Years of Living Dangerously got “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series” in 2014 — which was the last major Emmy to go to a Showtime program.
Since then, Showtime’s original series, once considered on par with HBO’s, have wavered in both quality and quantity, and the network’s movie library has dwindled to around 500 titles (the lowest of all the premium channels). But it still offers a lot of excellent content.
Showtime Networks still operates its sister-channels The Movie Channel and Flix, which used to specialize in major theatrical releases and classic movies, respectively, but now have no particular movie format.
Showtime consists of 8 “multiplexed” channels, the idea being like a multiplex movie theater. Almost all premium channels have at least one. TV providers generally offer Showtime bundled together with at least a couple of its multiplexes.
Some bundle separate channels The Movie Channel (which has its own multiplex channels) and Flix with it as well. Family Zone, Next, and Women are not as widely carried as the others.
- Showtime: The flagship channel, generally premieres new movies and series, and new episodes of ongoing series. This channel is usually offered as Showtime East and Showtime West.
- Showtime 2: The same programming as Showtime, but on a different schedule.
- Showcase: A focus on movies, including Showtime’s own original pictures.
- SHOxBET: Series from Showtime and BET that feature people of color, plus some BET+ Originals.
- Showtime Extreme: Basically Showtime Macho — action/adventure, thrillers, gangster flicks, and sports.
- Showtime Family Zone: Family and kids movies and programs, nothing above a PG-13/T rating.
- Showtime Next: Targeting 18-34-year-olds, its lineup consists of original movies, shorts (live-action and animated), documentaries, and concert events.
- Showtime Women: For the ladies in the house — films made by and/or starring women.
Showtime consists mostly of theatrical-release movies, plus documentaries, live boxing matches, concert events, and stand-up comedy specials.
Since April 2022, the network has been the exclusive home of Bellator MMA fights. Showtime occasionally airs pay-per-view bouts of both boxing and MMA, which are available to non-subscribers as well.
But what makes Showtime distinct from HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Epix, and any other movie channels or services is its slate of original series. A shortlist of notable Showtime originals, old and new:
- The Affair: Long-running drama about an extramarital affair between a struggling novelist (Dominic West) and a waitress (Ruth Wilson). Also stars Maura Tierney.
- Billions: The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (Paul Giamatti) becomes obsessed with bringing down hot-shot hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis).
- Dexter: A blood-spatter analysis expert for the Miami PD (Michael C Hall) is secretly a serial killer who goes after the baddies who slip through the justice cracks.
- Homeland: A CIA agent suffering from bipolar disorder (Claire Danes) suspects a former recently-returned POW from Syria (Damian Lewis again) was turned by al-Qaeda during his imprisonment.
- Penny Dreadful: Horror series set in Victorian England featuring an unusual cast of characters.
- Ray Donovan: Long-running show about a professional fixer (Liev Schreiber) who struggles to deal with the problems of his own family.
- Shameless: The oldest of six kids (Emmy Rossum) takes care of her dysfunctional family despite their alcoholic, absentee father (William H Macy) drinking all their money.
- Twin Peaks: Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is back in this miniseries continuation of the 1990 series. Bring your own coffee.
- Weeds: To support herself and two children, a suburban widow (Mary Louise Parker) starts selling cannabis in her California housing tract.
- Yellowjackets: In the present day, four women are haunted by the events following the 1996 crash of the plane carrying their high school soccer team.
If you want to ditch your cable but keep your Showtime, there are plenty of options for you. Those options do not include Vidgo (which doesn’t offer any premium channels) and Philo (which only offers very cheap ones).
You can find out all about getting the channel in our Showtime Streaming Service review.
DIRECTV STREAM (formerly AT&T TV) has tons of channels for movie-lovers. These range from premium channels like Showtime and HBO to the Movies Extra Pack with 9 channels such as MGM, HGNet Movies, Sony Movies to independent films on Sundance TV and golden oldies on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). There are movies of all lengths and genres for all ages and tastes.
Plans start at $69.99/mo for 75+ channels with all your local network stations. Showtime can be added to any package for $10.99/mo additional, or go for the mega-deluxe Premier Package for $149.99/mo for 140+ channels including Showtime, HBO, Cinemax, and Starz (including Starz Encore) all included in the price.
FuboTV targets international sports fans, but it’s got movies, too. The Pro package is $69.99/mo (free 7-day trial) for over 100 channels, including IFC, Sundance TV, and the Hallmark Channel in addition to all your local channels ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, UniMas, and The CW (where available).
FuboTV comes with 1,000 hours of cloud DVR storage and streaming on up to 10 devices at home and 2 away. For more information, see our FuboTV review.
Hulu + Live TV
Hulu + Live TV is a great all-around cable-replacement service, with a well-balanced lineup of over 85 channels, plus the combined on-demand libraries of Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+. You get all that for $69.99/mo.
It offers the usual premiums: Showtime ($10.99/mo), HBOMax, Cinemax, and Starz, but if you don’t want to pay for too many premiums, the base package contains FX, FXM, Lifetime Movies, Paramount Network, Turner Classic Movies, and USA Network.
The base plan comes with unlimited cloud DVR (9 month storage) but streaming on only two devices (you can upgrade to unlimited, however). Our Hulu + Live TV review has more details.
If you like to customize your channel package, then Sling TV is the service for you. It is the only service that has a premium channel (Epix Drive-In) included in its base packages ($35/mo for either, or $50/mo for both). In terms of premium channels, Sling doesn’t just have Showtime ($10/mo), Starz, and Epix — they have premiums like Magnolia Selects, Here TV, and Cinefest.
Film fans should check out the Hollywood Extra, which is $6/mo additional for Cinemoi, HDNet Movies, Turner Classic Movies, and more. Or you can get AMC+ for $7/mo, with all the best of AMC Networks’ channels and services (Sundance, IFC, Shudder).
All plans come with 50 hours of cloud DVR. In terms of simultaneous screens, it depends on the plan: 3 for Sling Blue and 1 for Sling Orange. Check out our Sling TV review for more information.
Similar to Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV is a well-balanced selection of 85+ channels for $64.99, but without the on-demand extras included. Showtime is $11/mo extra. A large number of premium a la carte add-ons are available, but not as many as offered by Sling TV.
Streaming Devices to Watch Showtime
All the streaming services we’ve discussed support the most popular devices in use today. There is universal support of the following:
- Amazon Fire TV
- Android mobile
- Apple TV
- iOS devices (iPhone, iPad)
- Samsung smart TVs
- Web browsers.
DIRECTV STREAM is the only service to offer its own device. This can be nice to have everything coming from a single source. But it’s a bit expensive at $120.
Other than DIRECTV STREAM, all the services support Android TV compatible devices, LG and VIZIO smart TVs, and and Xbox gaming systems. Hulu and YouTube support the PlayStation. Sling supports the Oculus. And Hulu supports the Nintendo Switch.
Anyone using a live TV streaming service with a Showtime subscription can also use the Showtime Anytime app. This is distinct from the regular Showtime app, which is used for the Showtime streaming service. It supports pretty much the same devices.
See our streaming reviews for complete details.
We live in a golden age of video entertainment. The biggest problem is deciding what to watch. So there are many alternatives to Showtime.
Yeah, you can watch TV shows and movies for free (and legally!) on various sites around the internet. The selection will typically be older, sometimes more obscure, and usually with commercials. But, again: free.
- Peacock: NBC’s streaming service allows you to pay for more content and remove the ads, but over 1,800 movies are available totally free, such as The Proposal, Megamind, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. (Peacock review)
- Pluto TV: Bolstered by the Paramount Global mega-library of movies, there are tons of free flicks here, including Leaving Las Vegas, There Will Be Blood, and Drive.
- Tubi TV: No shortage of movies from this Fox-run free site. Examples: Office Space, Fight Club, and The Goonies.
- Shout! Factory TV: This one is great for classic movies, like His Girl Friday, Borderline, Brief Encounter, and Day of the Dead.
A very interesting free service is Kanopy. It requires a library card but offers a great selection of ad-free movies. Kanopy draws from public library collections.
If you want a higher-resolution, commercial-free movie-viewing experience, not to mention often a higher-caliber movie, you’ll have to shell out some dough.
- HBO Max: Not only does it have Warner properties like Harry Potter and the DC superhero movies along with HBO’s acclaimed original series, it’s got a bunch of exclusive non-Warner stuff. This includes the entire South Park series going back thirty years, or all ten seasons of Friends. Subscriptions start at $9.99/mo with commercials. It’s $14.99/mo without commercials.
- Amazon Prime Video: Amazon actually has almost twice as many movies as Netflix, but a lot of them are more obscure movies. There’s still a lot of mainstream titles, plus Amazon Original movies like The Big Sick, 7500, and The Report. It is just $8.99/mo for Prime Video. Or you can get it as part of Amazon Prime itself for $12.99/mo. (Amazon Prime Video review)
- Netflix: Widely considered to have the best original movies and series of any of the streaming services. Recent titles include Sweet Girl, Mank, and Crazy About Her. Plans start at $9.99/mo for Basic and go up to $19.99/mo for Premier.
- Paramount+: Like PlutoTV’s film library, but bigger, better, and, if you spring for Premium, commercial-free. Now showing: Sonic the Hedgehog, Jackass Forever, and Scream. Plans start at $4.99/mo. (Paramount+ review)
Showtime doesn’t have anything the other premium channels don’t have, except its originals. If you’re a fan of the older shows, you’re in luck. Many are available on other services, even free ones. Weeds (all 8 seasons) is on Hulu, Peacock, and The Roku Channel. And Dexter is on Amazon Prime Video. And Dead Like Me (older than both of them) is only available on free services with ads (The Roku Channel, Tubi, and IMDb TV) or to purchase.
But if you’re hooked on Billions or The Chi or Yellowjackets or Black Monday or any other current or recent series, you’ll need Showtime. You won’t find recent episodes anywhere else. We recommend Sling TV for Showtime.