Perhaps nothing -- especially now the traditional TV industry is essentially in mashup mode for content on linear TV, on-demand, subscription, streaming, ad-supported cable, and premium ad-free cable networks.
To older TV consumers -- those with longtime cable TV subscriptions -- the brand association with a Showtime or HBO always meant one thing: No advertising, and unfiltered, perhaps controversial content.
And some swearing.
Turns out, that is no longer the rules of the road. A new Showtime channel, Showtime Selects, on ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV, a virtual pay TV provider of networks, will have a Showtime brand with advertising.
But this won’t be the usual linear TV ad-supported channel. Instead -- in some deference to its longtime no-advertising messaging association -- there will be only pre-and post video advertising on the Showtime Pluto TV channel.
A sampling of Showtime content -- 250 hours of TV series and movies -- won’t be interrupted. Much of this is a marketing plug, helping Pluto TV push up its 28.4 million monthly active users into the big time.
In much the same way, HBO Max will offer an ad-supported option next year. Currently, HBO Max includes previous programming on the HBO cable channel (which aired with no advertising) as well as programming from TNT and TBS (shows which had advertising).
All that means some tricky formatting issues.
Will HBO Max go the route of Pluto TV -- in part -- offering just pre-and post advertising for HBO shows, but include more widespread, traditional marketing messages, running inside show/movie content as seen on WarnerMedia’s ad-supported entertainment channels?
In any event, that adoption for HBO Max will be a marketing tease for consumers, perhaps enticing them to the pricier $14.99 a month, no-ad option.
HBO Max has yet to release any subscription pricing details for its ad-supported channel. It could go the Peacock route, offering a free option with a limited programming slate -- or perhaps a very modest $5.99 a month fee, similar to ViacomCBS’ CBS All Access.
This wouldn’t be the first time shows coming from premium cable TV networks have been associated with advertising. The U.S. syndicated TV market has seen versions of HBO and other premium network shows -- appropriately edited to abide with FCC regulations -- for airing on traditional TV stations.
But this time around -- on virtual pay TV providers -- those federal constraints don’t apply. So get ready for some swearing and rough content, and perhaps a pitch for a new car, mobile phone service, or life insurance.