Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

Eye on Demand | April 25, 2017

Scroll to top

Top

Showtime Review

Showtime Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
7
User Interface
6.5
Content on Offer
6
Device Availability
4
Value for Money
6.5
6

A Good Start

Hot on the heels of HBO’s recent OTT launch, Showtime are now also offering an Internet-delivered, contract-free service. And as a sign of good healthy competition, they’re offering more features for a lower monthly sub. We give the new OTT Showtime subscription a whirl, so check out our review.

Showtime have traditionally been an American premium cable TV network, only available as an expensive add-on to an existing pay-tv contract, but in the new cord-cutting future taking over the television world, Showtime (like HBO before it) has seen the need to provide their content over-the-top (OTT) and via the Internet.

For $11 a month contract-free (meaning you can opt in and out at any time), Showtime’s OTT service comes in at $4 less than the HBO equivalent, and includes not only their on-demand television and movie library, but also their East and West coast live feeds.

It’s worth pointing out here that Showtime also offer a slightly cheaper $9 Hulu add-on which is very similar, but with slightly different features. Check out our dedicated tab for the various pros and cons, but this particular review will concentrate on the separate native Showtime apps.

Video quality varies according to device and type of delivery, but we tested an average of 3300bps on connected devices with our reference rig here at EODHQ, and although I have seen better bitrates as far as numbers actually go, video quality was eyeballed as visually stunning, and to be honest, at least in our tests – flawless.

Platform support for any new service is usually low to start with, and HBO Now didn’t do themselves any favours by limiting their dedicated app to Apple products. Thankfully Showtime haven’t been so tight, with a decent launch providing access via laptops, Roku, Apple TV and iOS.

Note: This review looks at Showtime’s OTT service, and not their cable TV accompaniment Showtime Anytime.

 

  • Content

    $11/month is quite a lot of money when compared to the general scheme of things in the OTT world. With Netflix offering a phenomenal range of content for only $9 per month, many may ask if the additional cost is worth paying for Showtime content, especially as Netflix are developing quite a reputation themselves for original shows.

    More than anything, it will be Showtime’s original series that will draw most of the crowd. Home of Dexter, Ray Donovan, Nurse Jackie and Masters of Sex amongst others, Showtime may have just as powerful lineup as HBO Now, depending on who looks at the library.

    But Showtime’s content library is not terribly extensive for the price it charges. At the time of publication, I counted a mere 37 television series, which is considerably smaller than HBO Now’s collection.

    In addition to this, Showtime offer limited sports coverage as well, which centers mainly around boxing.

    The movie list is considerably better, with 606 titles at the time of publication. These covered quite a few genres, but with very few if any recent blockbusters. Netflix certainly does a better job on the movie front, but there is no way Netflix will cover the Showtime exclusive television content.

    What surprised a lot of people was that Showtime decided to include both their East and West coast live feeds – an interesting move in the days of on-demand delivery. Personally, I can’t really see the point, although many may use this as a way to communally watch a television episode live, and at the same time.

    Below is an example of content available at the time of publication and does not represent their entire catalogue.

    Television Posters

    Movie Posters

  •  

  • Showtime via Laptop/PC

    Showtime via a webbrowser is a beautiful thing indeed. An enormous amount of effort has gone into the design and layout of this web portal, and it provides some of the highest quality streams we have tested. Outside of Showtime.com’s atheistic qualities, the UI has some nice touches, but its episode management is somewhat confusing.

    Television shows are easily found since there are not an incredible number available on Showtime in the first place. But what is important for the viewer is how well the user interface manages watched and incomplete episodes. Showtime does this by splitting episode management (generically known as a Watchlist) into three separate sections, My List, Recently Watched, and Series Manager. Why they do this instead of a single, well structured list, I have no idea as all it does is create confusion.

    Single episodes can be added to the generic My List, but outside of movies, I really can’t comprehend why this would ever be done. After-all, once an episode is watched, will you ever go back?

    Recently Watched is probably the most useful list, as it is here that you can jump into a half finished episode awaiting completion. The list even includes timelines to see where you stand in each episode. The only problem is that it lists everything, which is not that handy if you want to just get back to the next episode of a specific series.

    Technically, this is where Series Manager would come in, and it does on other devices like the Apple TV, where it will highlight the next episode to watch or where you left off. Here on the web browser, it just lists every episode in the series or season, with no timeline or viewer reference. What exactly it is managing here, I don’t know.

    So what about the business end, as in watching content? Actually, video plays extremely well, with an average bitrate for on-demand content tested at 5070kbps* – a brilliant 1080p HD stream. It is not often that I can’t find fault with a browser-based stream, but Showtime have certainly made an effort here.

    Showtime Web OD 5070kbps

    Whereas Showtime haven’t quite got the on-demand UI right, I was rather impressed with their Live streams which offer a choice between the network’s East and West coast. Video streamed beautifully at 5270kbps*, which although didn’t look quite as good as the on-demand feed, it was reasonable enough when sitting further away from the screen. Couple this with a well designed, if basic EPG and programme information panel, and it seems they have at least got their live streaming side nailed.

    Showtime Web LIVE 5270kbps

    It is worth pointing out that these are the highest bitrates I tested for any Showtime platform, which of course is great on one hand that 1080p streams are possible with this service, but disappointing that only on a web browser – the last place I actually want (or need) to watch a 1080p stream.

    Platform Pros:

    • Website looks pretty.
    • Excellent 1080p HD quality.
    • Live streams.
    • Watchlist & Episode Management.

    Platform Cons:

    • Confusing episode management.
    • No timelines on “Manage Episodes” list.
    • No expiration date on Watchlist.

    (Accessing Showtime outside of the US may require a good VPN or supporting Smart DNS provider)

    CC BUTTON Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON HD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Live TV BUTTONTime Bar BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

    * video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth.

  • Showtime via iOS

    Note: The Showtime app can be downloaded from the US iTunes store. It is worth keeping in mind that this is the Showtime app, not Showtime Anytime which is for cable TV subscribers.

    Like Showtime’s web portal presence, their iOS app is beautiful and well laid out, with a well designed user interface and great visual impact. In fact, it is one of the best ways to access Showtime, especially on an iPad due to the larger real estate, but even on a smaller iPhone the layout and design shines.

    Although like all other platforms from Showtime, the app suffers from the confusing episode management split, it works so much more logically here than via the web browser.

    Simply clicking My List brings up clear indications of all the next episodes queued up, or which are still in need of completion (and this can be listed by A-Z, “My Order” or as some will find extremely handy, Expiration date. Switching to Recently Watched view provides an alternative way to find your content, and all have clearly marked timelines so you know exactly where you stand.

    Outside of that, expect the usual browsing methods employed by on-demand apps, with movies offering various filters and genres to help drill down content to make it all easier to find.

    Video quality was tested at a good 720p HD for on-demand content, which measured in our test at a healthy 3505kbps* and was certainly pleasant enough to view.

    Showtime iPhone OD 3505kbps

    Live content includes a nice, but extremely simple EPG that pops up on the left of the screen. The EPG‘s usefulness is questionable, as outside of basic programme information, there are no PVR or even reminder capabilities. But once the live feed begins streaming, you should expect an average standard definition video that we tested at 1900kbps*

    Showtime iPhone LIVE 1900kbps

    It is worth noting that we measured the same quality stream either with an iPhone or iPad, so no discrimination there. This is a good thing when AirPlay is concerned, as viewing the content when switched to the big-screen TV looks great from either device. Showtime provide full, multitasking AirPlay, allowing the mobile device to be used for other purposes once the stream begins, or even with the iPad or iPhone’s screen switched off.

    Platform Pros:

    • Well designed iOS app
    • Good 720p HD quality for on-demand streams.
    • Live streams.
    • Watchlist & Episode Management.
    • Expiration date on Watchlist is very useful.

    Platform Cons:

    • Live streams are only in SD.
    • No offline downloads.
    • No Chromecast support.

    (Accessing Showtime outside of the US may require a good VPN or supporting Smart DNS provider)

    CC BUTTON Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON SD BUTTON HD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Episode log BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON AirPlay BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

    * video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth.

  • Showtime via Apple TV

    Note: This review is of the Showtime app found in the American Apple TV hub, not the confusingly similar Showtime Anytime app which is also there. The former does not require a traditional American cable TV contract, while the latter does.

    Showtime’s Apple TV app makes use of the standard, if somewhat tired Apple TV UI that the giant Cupertino based company “encourages” all streaming broadcasters to use. There are benefits to this of course, and that is a standard UI that once learned from Netflix or anywhere else, can be easily applied to every other app. But after so many years without any significant change, it is starting to look a little bland.

    Still, it checks all the main boxes and that includes a nice handling of episode management. Navigate your way down to Series Manager and you’ll find the very next episode ready in the queue waiting for you to begin, whether this is the next episode in line, or where you left one half way through. It’s a pity Showtime don’t employ this great little feature on all their other devices.

    Outside of that, it pretty much runs with the same feature set of all the others, including a mix of on-demand and live content, although it lacks the hugely useful expiration date on the Watchlist.

    Video playback is good but nothing to write home about, with a fine 720p HD stream in our on-demand tests averaging 3580kbps*. Don’t expect Netflix perfection here, but I found the image quality to be excellent overall.

    Showtime ATV OD 3580kbps

    Live feeds are a bit of a letdown in comparison, as only standard definition streams averaging 1950kbps* in our tests were measured. This is ok, but when you see how fantastic the 1080p HD streams were via a web browser, it is a little disappointing that the largest screen in the house is not treated with as much respect.

    Showtime ATV LIVE 1950kbps

    Platform Pros:

    • Standard Apple TV UI.
    • Good 720p HD quality for on-demand streams.
    • Live streams.
    • Watchlist & Episode Management.

    Platform Cons:

    • Live streams are only in SD.
    • No expiration dates on Watchlist.
    • Apple TV UI looking a little tired these days.

    (Accessing Showtime outside of the US may require a good VPN or supporting Smart DNS provider)

    CC BUTTON Movies BUTTON Thumbnail BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTON HD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Live TV BUTTON Episode log BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

    * video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth.

  • Showtime via Roku

    Just like the Apple TV, Roku also provide a basic template for streaming apps (or channels as they are known here). But unlike Apple which forces it upon everyone, in Roku the basic template is only used by companies running on a low budget or if they don’t have time to design a proper UI themselves. Somehow with Showtime, I suspect it is the latter.

    Also unlike the Apple TV template, the Roku one is extremely basic and makes the tired Apple UI look positively revolutionary in comparison. That said, it still does the job, even if only the home screen shows any hint of elegance.

    There are two almost identical menus on Showtime’s Roku channel. One of the left of the screen, and one on the right hand side. The right side one is accessed by pressing the * button on the remote, unless you are on the left menu when it will bring up programme details. As for accessing the left side menu, press Home from the right side menu. Confused? You should be.

    Showtime’s Roku Watchlist opperates somewhere between the web portal’s lack of features and the Apple TV or iOS’s fuller feature list – It lacks the refinement of iOS’s timelines, and the ATV‘s details, but for the most part it isn’t too bad.

    As for on-demand video quality, expect about the same level found on the Apple TV, with our tests averaging 3510kbps*, making this a nice 720p HD stream. FFW & REW is quite basic as well, with no visual clues as to where you may be in a particular show. Showtime Roku OD 3510kbps

    Showtime’s live options on the Roku channel are the least developed of all platforms, with little more than a Now/Next view on either the East or West coast feeds. We measured the stream at standard definition, averaging 1730kbps*. Once live playback began though, there didn’t seem to be any way to access programme information, an omission that could become quite annoying when using. And selecting closed captions during live playback requires a change in the main settings rather than within the playback window as possible with the on-demand content.

    Showtime Roku LIVE 1730kbps

    Platform Pros:

    • Good 720p HD quality for on-demand streams.
    • Live streams.
    • Watchlist & Episode Management.

    Platform Cons:

    • Live streams are only in SD.
    • No expiration dates on Watchlist.
    • Very basic Roku template used for UI.
    • Closed captions requires a settings change for live content.
    • No visual clues with FFW or REW.
    • Watchlist seems quite basic.

    (Accessing Showtime outside of the US may require a good VPN or supporting Smart DNS provider)

    CC BUTTON Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON SD BUTTON HD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Live TV BUTTON Episode log BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

    * video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth.

  •  

  • Dedicated App or via Hulu?

    There are actually two ways to access Showtime without an American cable TV contract. One is via a separate dedicated Showtime app – of which this review is concentrating on, and the other is through Hulu via a plugin (see an addition to the Hulu review as soon as we can roll one out).

    Despite both of them doing essentially the same thing, bringing Showtime to American customers without a contract (or unofficially those outside America via Smart DNS or VPN providers), they are quite different beasts, with advantages and disadvantages that may sway you to choose one over the other.

    It is worth pointing out right here, that to sign up via Hulu, you will need to end your current Hulu account if you have one, and sign up again with Showtime as an option. There is no explanation why this is required by Showtime or Hulu, only that it is. (See the signing up tab for more details on how to access the dedicated app version reviewed here).

    One last thing to keep in mind. Attaching Showtime to Hulu also requires a Hulu subscription as a base package, and this costs around $8 per month on its own. This means you will be looking at $17 per month for the combined Hulu+Showtime in reality as verses $11 for the dedicated standalone Showtime OTT sub.

    Comparison

  • Signing Up & Global Access

    Signing up to Showtime is pretty easy for the native app reviewed here. Either sign up directly on the device you wish to use (Roku or web page for example) and hand over your credit card details before you can begin your 30 day free trial, or sign up via iTunes.

    Just remember, if you don’t want to continue after 30 days, set your subscription to not renew or cancel at any time before the monthly period expires. (You will still be able to continue using Showtime until your monthly cycle completes).

    If you sign up via the Apple TV, you will be billed via your standard iTunes account. Keep in mind it is here at iTunes that you manage your subscription, so you must log into iTunes on a computer in order to cancel or modify the Showtime billing cycle. For instructions on how to do this, follow the guide here.

    Tip: For those who live outside of the US, if Showtime do not accept your non-American credit card, and you have access to an Apple TV, you can always sign up via iTunes and use American iTunes prepaid cards. These can be purchased online and delivered to you via email. I have personally tested the this service here, but there are plenty more. You will still need a good VPN or supporting Smart DNS service to access from outside of the US.

     

    The best an easiest way to unblock Showtime’s geographic restrictions that restrict access to be within the United States is to use a Smart DNS service. These are generally cheaper than VPNs, can be configured on many set-top-boxes or smart TVs, and are usually much faster than VPNs as well.

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

    Alternatively, a good VPN is another option, but this is really only easy to configure on mobile devices or a computer. For access via set-top-boxes such as the Roku and Apple TV, a DD-WRT router is generally needed with VPN access configured on it. Unlike Smart DNS, this latter option is not suitable for the novice user.

    VPNs also work better when geographically not to far away from the country you wish to tunnel into. We can recommend the following VPN companies.

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

  • Showtime are not the first American cable network to offer a completely over-the-top option without the need of a traditional cable contract, and no tie-ins outside of a month by month fee. HBO jumped the gun with their HBO Now service.

    But Showtime have done a few things better, by offering it as either a Hulu plugin, or standalone service and complete with live streams as well as their on-demand content, not to mention at a lower price point.

    All up, Showtime’s foray into the OTT world is solid and well thought out. I have some issues with how they handle their episode management, and I would have liked to have seen the same high quality streams on all devices that were tested via their web portal. But over-all I am quite impressed with the service.

    Video quality comes through clear and without any experienced buffering issues, and although the opening selection of devices is small, it is still better than HBO’s restriction limiting it to Apple – and don’t forget, there is the Hulu plugin option which will open up the platform support to include nearly everything (as long as live streams are not needed).

    At the end of the day, it comes down to how much content Showtime provide that fits into your lifestyle before you can decide if this service is good value for you. As long as it has a free trial period (and that won’t always be there), check it out for sure.

    Pros:

    • HD streams for on-demand content (up to 1080p via browser).
    • Live streams also available.
    • Adequate episode management.
    • Good value for money.
    • Option between Hulu plugin or dedicated app.
    • Excellent AirPlay support.

    Cons:

    • Outside of web portal, live streams are in SD.
    • Hulu plugin requires cancelling current Hulu subscription.
    • No live streams on Hulu plugin (outside web portal).
    • No offline downloads.
    • No Chromecast support.
    • Limited platform support (outside of Hulu plugin).

    Log:

    21.07.2015: Review published – Score 6 – A good start.

     

    Found this review helpful? Why not like us on Facebook and help others find it?

 

Comments

  1. Apple7743

    I am able to unblock Netflix, hulu and BBC iplayer with free purevpn mobile apps on my android and apple devices! 😀 I was also able to unblock Youtube while I was traveling few weeks back! One must give it a try!

    • Just to point out here, PureVPN isn’t free, they have a monthly fee.