Our SHOWTIME streaming review for 2021: Is it worth it?


Feb 25, 2020 — 7 min read

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SHOWTIME review summary

  • On-demand and live streaming movies and shows
  • Strong original content lineup
  • Small content library and more expensive than most similar streaming options
  • Provides an enjoyable on-demand user experience

SHOWTIME is home to one of the strongest original TV drama line-ups across the busy video streaming market. In addition to its own programming, the television network and streaming service provides on-demand movies and TV shows as well as live broadcasts. It is available directly or as an add-on for existing subscribers of streaming providers, such as Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. Cable subscribers can also purchase the service through their providers. 

Viacom initially launched SHOWTIME as a cable service in California in 1976, then started distributing it as a national competitor to paid-for cable networks and, specifically, HBO two years later. It went through several changes in ownership, including being part of the CBS Corporation until another merger with Viacom in 2019. SHOWTIME’s on-demand, over-the-top (OTT) streaming service launched in July 2015 to target cable cutters and challenge the then recently launched HBO Now service.

SHOWTIME has a shared 10 million subscribers with sister service CBS All Access, an increase of two million in the previous 12 months, according to a CBS statement in January 2020.

SHOWTIME plan overview

SHOWTIME is similar to other premium networks like HBO and Starz, which can be purchased through a cable or satellite provider, their own streaming service or via another streaming service. For example, SHOWTIME costs an additional $11/mo. through Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, $10/mo. with Sling TV and $11/mo. on its own. Signing up through a third-party provider also means any features will be determined by the options available on their chosen platform.

SHOWTIME content

SHOWTIME viewers get a decent choice of quality movies and original content, which are supplemented by a relatively small but impressive list of additional TV shows. The service also operates 16 multiplex channels, including eight that feature around-the-clock movies: SHO, SHO 2, SHO Extreme, SHO Next, SHOWCASE, SHOWCASE Beyond, SHOWTIME and SHOW Women. These channels are joined by The Movie Channel and Movie Channel Extra, also owned by Viacom, in some regions.

SHOWTIME subscribers who sign-up via a third-party service will receive a different number of channels depending on which provider they use. For example, Amazon Prime Video and Sling TV both offer nine live SHOWTIME channels, while Hulu only has one.

For a more in-depth explanation of how we evaluated streaming services, you can find our full methodology here.


SHOWTIME has a strong movie line-up in terms of quality but lacks the quantity boasted by similar add-on services like HBO NOW (1,054 movies) and STARZ (1,163 movies). That said, where better to start with SHOWTIME’s strong movie library than a hand-picked list of Oscar Best Picture winners? The best of these is Spotlight, which follows the true story of a team of investigative journalists from The Boston Globe, played by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams as they uncover systemic abuse inside the city’s Catholic Church system.

Other Oscar winners available to SHOWTIME subscribers include romantic comedy Shakespeare In Love, wartime drama The English Patient, Oliver Stone’s Platoon, starring Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe and Johnny Depp, as well as Colin Firth as an English monarch trying to overcome a speech impediment in The King’s Speech.

These award-winners are ably supported by a couple of Tom Cruise crackers in stock car thriller Days of Thunder and Valkyrie, which focuses on a plot to kill Adolf Hitler. There is also a long list of cult classics, such as Mel Gibson in the frenetic Mad Max, Keanu Reeves pursuing surfer turned bank robber Patrick Swayze in Point Break and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the futuristic Total Recall.

TV Shows

SHOWTIME’s library of 65 TV shows is limited in comparison to similar types of add-on services like HBO NOW (195 TV shows) and STARZ (117 TV shows). However, the service makes up for this with the quality of its content. This includes a range of great shows borne out of collaborations between British and U.S. producers. The Tudors, a historical drama focused primarily on English monarch King Henry VIII, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, is particularly popular. 

Another must-watch show from the cross-Atlantic partnership is Penny Dreadful, a horror drama produced by Sam Mendes. The series draws on popular characters from fiction, such as Count Dracula, Dorian Gray, Abraham Van Helsing and Victor Frankenstein. Its all-star cast includes Billie Piper, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett and Timothy Dalton.

These dramas are joined by a number of intriguing true crime documentaries such as Active Shooter: America Under Fire, which looks into the effects that mass shootings have had on survivors and the families of victims. Another intriguing option is director Oliver Stone’s unprecedented collection of interviews with Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, in the four-part mini-series The Putin Interviews.

Sports fans have plenty to enjoy with documentaries, such as 100%: Julian Edelman, which offers insight into the NFL’s Super Bowl 2019 MVP and an interesting watch for hockey fans in All Access: Quest for the Stanley Cup. The platform also features live boxing most weekends through the SHOWTIME Championship Boxing channel and on apps and web players.

SHOWTIME originals

The service comes into its own with its range of top-notch, original TV programming. A fan favorite SHOWTIME original series is Claire Danes playing a bipolar, highly strung and unpredictable CIA agent in Emmy and Golden Globe-winning political thriller Homeland. It is also the home to the US version of Shameless, in which William H. Macy stars as a delinquent drunk father of six children who must learn to take care of themselves in an adaptation of the hit UK drama.

Other notable SHOWTIME shows include legal drama Billions, which stars Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti, Michael C. Hall’s portrayal of a police forensic technician’s double life as a serial killer in Dexter, Liev Schreiber playing a law firm mediant in Ray Donovan and Dominic West and Ruth Wilson starring in multiple viewpoints of the same extra-marital relationship in The Affair. And there is even more to binge on with Californication, Queer As Folk, The L Word and the third season of Twin Peaks.

User experience

SHOWTIME’s app is arranged into bold tiles grouped into broad categories, which make it easy for users to scroll through the interface and discover shows and find new content. When they click on a movie or show, SHOWTIME reveals useful information, such as a synopsis, rating, the year it was released, the duration of the content, and the director and leading cast members.

Content playback is also user-friendly thanks to simple controls, which include traditional fast-forward and rewind features that seem to have gone out of fashion recently. Furthermore, all SHOWTIME players remember content the viewer watched most recently, even if they did so on a different device, which is great for picking up a movie on a mobile phone, having watched the start of it on a laptop or smart TV. 

SHOWTIME users can sign in to the service and authorize up to five devices for downloads. But it only permits three simultaneous streams. Users can restrict access to certain types of content by logging into the service, opening “Settings,” then selecting the maximum rating allowed for each account.

Mobile users can download content to watch at a later date by adding it to “My List.” 

Closed captioning is available on all movies and shows on SHOWTIME. Once the user hits play they can toggle subtitles on and off or toggle their options using the “CC” button in the bottom right corner of the player. 

These user experiences are solely applicable to SHOWTIME’s own players. Subscribers that sign-up through a third-party service, such as Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV or Hulu, will be able to watch through their chosen platform.

Compatible devices

SHOWTIME provides a consistently simple and solid user experience across apps and web players for various devices and platforms. Here’s the full list of devices that support the SHOWTIME app:

  • Amazon Fire tablets
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Android 4.4 and newer
  • Android TV, including HiSense TV, LeEco TV, NVIDIA Shield, Sony Bravia, Xiaomi MiBox
  • Apple iOS 9 and newer
  • Apple TV, 3rd generation and newer
  • Chromecast
  • Facebook Portal TV
  • LG Smart TV, with webOS
  • Mac OSX 10.10 and later
  • Oculus Go and Oculus Quest
  • Roku streaming devices, 2nd generation and newer
  • Roku TV
  • Samsung Smart TVs
  • Windows 10 or later
  • Xbox One

Is SHOWTIME worth it?

An obvious sticking point for anyone weighing whether to subscribe to SHOWTIME is that its price point of $11/mo. is higher than popular streaming services like Amazon Prime Video ($9/mo.), Hulu ($6/mo.) and Netflix ($9/mo.), which also have huge content libraries and their own original content. Compared to similar premium networks, SHOWTIME is actually a good deal cheaper than HBO Now ($15/mo.), but still pricier than Starz ($8.99/mo.).

However, SHOWTIME makes up for this with a wealth of high-quality entertainment. This includes films that have won Oscars, as well as award-winning original TV programming and a strong catalog of additional movies and shows.

In an ever-growing streaming market, SHOWTIME is well worth it for viewers who are keen to get first access to its original content. It is also a nice add-on for people who have already subscribed to another streaming service, even if only for one month to mix up their viewing options.