Showtime to go head-to-head with the Super Bowl

Michelle Clancy | 27-01-2014

In a rather bold move, Showtime is to air new episodes of its series Shameless, House of Lies and Episodes opposite FOX's coverage of the Super Bowl Sunday.

The landmark for the US nation traditionally sees non-broadcasters cede ratings victory to the event which should command more than 100 million viewers. A number of Showtime's rivals are pulling current-season TV for library content for the evening,

It's a reversal; the premium cable network had originally planned to air encores of the shows. However, it went up against the NFC Championship last Sunday, which aired on FOX and drew 57 million viewers, and managed to hold its own. Shameless is averaging 5.4 million weekly viewers across platforms. House of Lies is averaging three million, and Episodes about two million. Against the NFC Championship, Shameless averaged 1.604 million viewers an expected slump that was actually up 17% from the comparable championship night one year earlier.

"The strength and performance of our three winter shows has been remarkable," said Kim Lemon, executive vice president of program planning, scheduling and research at Showtime. "Shameless went head-to-head last week against the strongest NFL championship game we've seen in 19 years, and still grew its audience."

Part of Showtime's decision is also based on catch-up TV use and time-shifting: about 70% of the network's subscribers make use of that capability, making the timeslot for airing new episodes less critical.

"Part of our promise to our audience, is to be there with fresh episodes every week," Lemon said. "If the 100 million plus viewers who watch the Super Bowl prefer to watch a replay of our series after the game or later in the week, on demand or on Showtime Anytime, then that's totally fine with us."

Other networks, like HBO, ABC and CBS, have decided to pull their new shows for the night. HBO plans to premiere this week's episodes of Girls and Looking on Saturday night, then replay them in their regular Sunday timeslots the next night. New drama True Detective is airing a repeat this Sunday and will come back on 9 February.

Showtime sees this as an opportunity. "We've looked at the competitive landscape, and we have an opportunity to be one of the few scripted alternatives on Super Bowl Sunday," Lemon said.