Underscoring the pitfalls in the uncharted waters of digital distribution of TV content, I’ve learned that 20th Century Fox TV, whose cable division Fox 21 TV Studios produces flagship Showtime drama Homeland, has sent a letter to the pay cable network objecting to the inclusion of the popular series in Showtime’s recently launched over-the-top streaming service on Hulu. I hear the letter, which also reportedly names Showtime’s SVOD service Showtime Anytime and Showtime on XFinity, disputes that the contract for Homeland, signed five years ago, allows for such use of the show, a claim Showtime believes is without merit.
I’ve learned that the original deal for Homeland gives Showtime streaming exclusivity, which has prevented 20th TV to sell the show to a streaming service like Netflix, limiting the studio’s off-network options to DVD sales. Until this summer, Homeland only had been available on SVOD basis through Showtime Anytime, online and through various platforms, including cable and satellite providers, Roku and XBox.
This June, Showtime parent CBS Corp. announced the July launch of a Showtime stand-alone streaming (over-the-top) service with Apple as the first partner. Beginning on July 7, Showtime’s East and West Coast feeds became available live on Hulu, along with on-demand access to Showtime original series, including Homeland, for $8.99 a month.
Homeland continues to be available through the Showtime service on Hulu while 20th TV and Showtime work on the dispute, which sources indicate likely will be resolved amicably as the two sides continue to collaborate on the upcoming Season 5 of Homeland, currently filming in Berlin. Homeland is coming off a strong Season 4, which brought the series back to the top Emmy drama category with a best drama series nomination.
According to observers, one possible resolution, likely pursued by 20th TV, would be some sort of renegotiation of the terms of the original deal, which was signed when the SVOD business was in its infancy and traditional networks launching stand-alone streaming services was hardly on anyone’s radar.