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A pay channel in the model of HBO, Showtime debuted on the market in 1976. Originally based in California, the network expanded to national markets two years later. Its original owner was the first incarnation of Viacom, which is now known as CBS Corporation.

Showtime often lags behind its rivals, HBO/Cinemax and Starz/Encore, primarily due to the other networks' stronger movie offerings. It may have lost the film libraries of its largest providers, Paramount Pictures (which was its corporate cousin from 1994 to 2005), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Lionsgate, to their own Epix in 2009 (not counting Warner Bros.. Universal and Columbia Pictures in addition to the other 3 studios mentioned), but it hasn't been hurt by this at all. Showtime hold the rights to the Twilight film franchise and have shown them plenty of times. note 

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Original programming is a different story, as Showtime's offerings generally rival those of HBO. Some of their best known series include Weeds (which was also Adored by the Network), Dexter, United States of Tara and Homeland. Back in The '90s, Showtime was known more for genre shows (with a reliance on Recycled: The Series), with Stargate SG-1, Poltergeist: The Legacy, and a revival of The Outer Limits in 1995 all getting their start on the network.

Back in The '80s one of its earliest original series was Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, a low budget but well-acted and written series that re-told classic fairy tales with all star casts, including some of the biggest names in Hollywood. The series was so popular that it became one of the earliest series to get released on home video. A Spiritual Successor called Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories also ran for three years in the 90's. Another notable early original series was Brothers, one of the first shows to address gay issues, which is also notable for the novelty of Yeardley Smith, best known for her role as Lisa Simpson, in a live-action setting, for being produced by Paramount's video division for its' first couple of seasons (production transferred to Paramount Television in 1987), and for being hard to find.

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Being a premium network, it has more lenient standards when it comes to profanity and nudity (this is after all where David Duchovny got his start as the "host" of Red Shoe Diaries); something which has been lampshaded over the years. Showtime's sibling networks fall under the Showtime Networks umbrella, and include The Movie Channel (which is focused on older, genre and independent films), Flix (which focuses on films from the 1970s and beyond) and the Smithsonian Channel. The latter channel is part of a unique deal CBS has with the Smithsonian Institution for rights to programming involving Smithsonian exhibits and properties.

Shows featured on Showtime have included:


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