Is it time for Showtime to quit charging?

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With so many original hit shows on Showtime these days, it’s hard to remember the premium channel’s 1990s tagline, “Nothing but RoboCop and soft-core skin flicks.” OK, so maybe they never came right out and admitted it like that, but the fact remains that Showtime has pulled off an impressive evolution into the best paid channel that no one’s watching. Public-radio icon Ira Glass recently said fans constantly tell him they would watch the TV version of This American Life, if only they subscribed to Showtime. (The series is now available on iTunes for $1.99 an episode.) And this week, Showtime stopped just short of celebrating when new episodes of Weeds turned up on illegal file-sharing sites. “I’m excited it’s out there,” says Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. “Showtime is great, but it does have a limited audience.” So will Showtime’s success end up destroying its own ad-free model? Maybe there could be a Showtime Lite that’s free for cable subscribers. The network could retain its core audience by continuing to charge for shows like Catfight Bordello 2: Clash of the Cream Corn Vixens. Until then, I approve of their interim plan: ads featuring Mary-Louise Parker and Fox Mulder, nekkid and eatin’ apples.

—Posted by David Griner