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After HBO & Showtime, Will AMC Go Online a la Carte?

UPDATE: AMC is now available online on the $20-per-month Sling TV service (see review).

Two down, one to go? Today, CBS announced that its premium-content channel Showtime will offer an online-only subscription service in 2015 — just as we predicted after HBO announced upcoming HBO à la carte three weeks ago. With a string of mega hits including Breaking Bad, AMC has earned a spot next to HBO and Showtime. But if it doesn't follow suit with an online subscription, AMC may become — at least for the growing ranks of cord-cutters — The Walking Dead of online TV.

MORE: Best Online-Only TV Shows 

Sure, even slightly enterprising cord-cutters can follow Walter White or Don Draper with a rudimentary knowledge of BitTorrent or pirate streaming-sites like Project Free TV. But going legit is very appealing, as proved by the 50 million Netflix subscribers (36 million in the United States). There's no hunting for oddly named files, buffering delays or fear of downloading malware.

And piracy does nothing for AMC other than create a little buzz among nonsubscribers, which the network hardly needs for zeitgeist definers like Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead, anyway. 

In a way, AMC has already led the charge online by making some of its top shows available on Netflix shortly after they air, unlike Showtime, which never puts content on Netflix, or HBO, which just recently put its older shows on Amazon. With its own online channel, maybe AMC will pull its shows from others, like Netflix. After all, then AMC can get all that juicy customer data, as well as the option of running commercials (as it does on cable, and Hulu does online).

But the more channels that go online, the less appealing later channels might become. HBO is a must-have for the millions of fanatics for Game of Thrones (consistently the most-pirated TV show), as Showtime is for Dexter. But the prices for fans are adding up. Let's guess that HBO and Netflix will each cost $10 per month (the networks haven't named prices yet). Netflix is another $8 or $9 (depending on when you signed up). Throw in $8 for Hulu Plus if you want most network TV, and $6 for CBS if you want the rest. (Although, an antenna is an even cheaper way to watch network TV, as long as you only watch it live.) 

MORE: Where to Watch The Walking Dead Online

That's about $50, before you consider Amazon Prime ($99 per year). And remember, you still need a broadband Internet plan (about $40 to $60 per month). You're bumping up against the price of cable TV. 

Online overload may not push everyone back to cable or satellite subscriptions. (Or will it?) But it may make people choosey. If you love Dexter but only like Game of Thrones, maybe you skip an HBO Go subscription. Or perhaps Walking Dead fans decide they like, but don't need, Showtime's Masters of Sex or The Knick.

2015 is going to be a very interesting year for TV, as online subscriptions make people think about what they really want to watch. But if viewers focus on what  they already love, they may miss out on discovering, by chance, other shows they might also come to love.

Senior editor Sean Captain never misses an episode of Game of Thrones. Follow him @seancaptain. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • threefish
    Eventually the content makers will have to sell a show on its merits alone without packaging up other shows. At that point, the consumer wins. I don't watch any of the shows mentioned, so I guess I've already won. No?
    Reply
  • ubercake
    ...AMC has already led the charge online by making some of its top shows available on Netflix shortly after they air, unlike Showtime, which never puts content on Netflix...
    I'm currently burning through Californication on Netflix; a Showtime show. I also watched the complete Dexter series on Netflix.
    Reply
  • d_kuhn
    True a la carte would be the ability to purchase individual shows (Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 3), that's where they need to go long term... but I'm OK with baby steps. This is a move in the right direction, instead of spending over a hundred bucks a month for 1000 shows I'll never watch and a handful I will, I'll instead spend a lot less a month for a lot fewer shows I'll never watch and a few I will.
    Reply
  • ubercake
    This is a win-win for consumers. The thing that scares me a little is in 5-10 years, will the Netflixs, Amazon Primes and Hulus of the World be gouging us like Comcast and Time Warner currently do???

    Are we simply passing the proverbial profit baton as consumers from the current megacorps to the next megacorps?
    Reply
  • TNel
    Typo: "But the prices for fans are adding up. Let's guess that HBO and Netflix will each cost $10 per month (the networks haven't named prices yet). Netflix is another $8 or $9 (depending on when you signed up)."

    I think you mean "Let's guess that HBO and Showtime will each...."
    Reply
  • deftonian
    "Eventually the content makers will have to sell a show on its merits alone without packaging up other shows. At that point, the consumer wins. I don't watch any of the shows mentioned, so I guess I've already won. No?"

    I'm going to say you've lost, because Breaking Bad is a gem and should definitely be watched. Game of Thrones is also top notch but it's more niche then others so I can't recommend it unless I knew what style you were in to.

    That said, I would suggest you use Netflix for Breaking Bad.
    Reply
  • glasssplinter
    I highly doubt you'll be able to get these for the $10-$15. That's what it costs to someone who already subscribes to a cable package. I think with DirecTV HBO is $17.99 and Showtime is $13.99 or $10 if you subscribe to a premium channel already. I think realistically you're going to be looking at closer to $25 for HBO and $20 for Showtime. You've got to remember that the studios have you exactly where they want you. You don't want to pay for cable but want to see their show so they can charge $20 a channel and people will still get it because it's cheaper than cable.
    Reply
  • soldier45
    AMC has been online for a while now, its called torrents.
    Reply
  • jakjawagon
    OK, but how long until we can download TV shows legally without any DRM?
    Reply
  • danwat1234
    jakawagon, we can already..for instance some old ones are on Youtube
    Reply