Showtime is a premium television brand used by a number of channels and platforms around the world, but primarily refers to a group of channels in the United States. As of January 2009, Showtime's programming reaches 16.5 million subscribers in the United States.
Showtime primarily shows motion pictures as well as some original programming and occasional boxing and mixed martial arts matches.
Showtime, originally a service of Viacom, went on the air on July 1, 1976, first shown on a local cable system in Dublin, California. Its first program was Celebration, a concert special featuring Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd and ABBA.
On March 7, 1978, Showtime expanded to the national market via satellite, competing with HBO and other pay cable networks.
In 1979, Viacom sold 50% of Showtime to TelePrompTer. In 1982, Westinghouse, who had acquired TelePrompTer the previous year, sold its share of Showtime back to Viacom. In 1983, Viacom and Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment merged Showtime and The Movie Channel to form Showtime/The Movie Channel, Inc. (later Showtime Networks, Inc.). 1984 saw the premiere of Showtime's first original movie, The Ratings Game, both starring, and directed by, Danny DeVito. In 1985, Viacom acquired Warner's share of Showtime/TMC, making them the sole owner of Showtime once again.
In 1990, Showtime ventured into acquiring and premiering independent films directly for the channel, originally as part of its 30-Minute Movie anthology series of short films. One of its first premieres, 12:01 PM, was nominated for an Academy Award. In the years that followed, Showtime expanded its acquisitions into the realm of feature-length fare, including the 1997 remake of Lolita, directed by Adrian Lyne.
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