Showtime Gets 'Instant' Subs on Dish


EchoStar Communications Corp. subscribers can now add Showtime to their subscription packages by clicking their remotes, using an interactive feature both companies are marketing

EchoStar has offered ITV applications such as sports, news and gaming services to more than 6 million customers who have set-tops that run middleware from OpenTV Corp., a Liberty Media Corp.-controlled public company that has been a vendor to EchoStar since January 2002.

Now EchoStar is the first satellite or cable provider to allow subscribers to order a new programming service without picking up the phone to call a customer-service representative or logging onto a Web site.

"EchoStar really believes in the possibility of interactivity and what it can do for customers and their experience," said senior vice president of programming Michael Schwimmer, who added that the DBS provider hopes to allow subscribers to order other networks with their remotes.

Showtime, like other premium services, picks up most of its new subscribers when satellite or cable customers install service, said Tom Hayden, executive vice president of Showtime's direct-to-home business. The network also relies on free previews, which are coordinated with direct-marketing campaigns, to expand its subscriber base, he added.

EchoStar is running cross-channel spots that tout the Showtime Unlimited 10-channel movie package and allow customers to add the premium network to their subscription packages with a click of the remote.

"It's practically instantaneous," Schwimmer said of the time it takes EchoStar to authorize the channel after subscribers order it.

Allowing subscribers to adjust their programming packages with their remotes also reduces calls to EchoStar's customer-service reps, Hayden noted. "The phone is ringing a lot less at EchoStar; it [makes the process] tremendously more efficient."

In addition to giving subscribers the ability to order Showtime while viewing one of the cross-channel spots, customers can also order the channel by surfing to a new Showtime Interactive virtual channel that offers access to the Showtime Unlimited programming package and program information.

Showtime and EchoStar launched market trials of the interactive service months ago; the companies have already signed up "thousands" of subscribers with the offering, Hayden said.

Showtime is also talking to DBS provider DirecTV and cable operators about offering subscribers the ability to order the channel via an ITV feature. We fully expect and hope cable does it as well," Hayden said.

Time Warner Cable spokesman Keith Cocozza said their subscribers now can't use their remotes to add dedicated channels to subscription packages, but said current HBO or Showtime subscribers can use their remotes to order subscription VOD from those two premium channels.