RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 5 will not air on VH1 this summer, but the show is moving to a new network (again): this time to Showtime, a premium cable channel.
The new season is being referred to as “a new special edition,” but it’s unclear what is special about it except the move to behind a paywall.
Showtime is also the home of the terrific unscritpted series Couples Therapy and The Circus, but it mostly has scripted shows, including queer-themed shows The L Word: Generation Q and Work in Progress.
Showtime entertainment president Jana Winograde said in a press release that “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars is a culture-defining show that fits perfectly within the contemporary programming Showtime offers in both scripted and unscripted. We are excited to take advantage of our relationship with our new sister company VH1 to present a special edition of this sensational series and bring in this passionate and robust fanbase. It’s the latest example of how we can leverage our combined portfolio to provide new experiences for our audience.”
Both VH1 and Showtime are owned by ViacomCBS, the new company formed by the recent merger of CBS and Viacom. The networks will heavily promote All Stars‘ move to Showtime, with a press release saying that “VH1 will use the highly anticipated new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race … to drive audiences to Showtime for its June premiere of All Stars.”
When Drag Race All Stars 5’s premiere date will be
Drag Race All Stars 5’s premiere date is June 5, with new episodes airing Fridays at 8.
The season filmed last summer, so the Drag Race All Stars 5 cast is online, though it has yet to be officially announced.
This is the third network change for RuPaul’s Drag Race, which started on Logo and was moved to VH1 two years ago. Undoubtedly, it’ll hurt viewership for the franchise, since fewer people subscribe to Showtime (it has about 27 million subscribers) than have VH1 (about 90 million people).
The move is clearly about using a strong, cheap-to-produce show to help grow Showtime’s subscribers rather than about supporting Drag Race or growing its audience.
The merger of CBS and Viacom created a company that is struggling right now, though so is a lot of Hollywood.
Variety reported that, in a call with investors today, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish “said the decision to blend the RuPaul and BET brands into Showtime was an effort to broaden the overall appeal of Showtime to prospective subscribers.” (The Showtime Showcase channel will be rebranded as Sho BET, which will “feature scripted series aimed at African-American audiences,” Variety said.)
Bakish also said, “We see an opportunity to lean more in this (unscripted) direction as there are new ViacomCBS assets to bring to the mix,” with Sho BET “attracting incremental subscribers.”
The big question for Drag Race is whether this the regular show will also make the move. The Hollywood Reporter cited unnamed sources who said the all-star season “is the only one planned for now, but there’s a possibility for more in the future.”
Moving Drag Race from Logo left that channel as en empty shell that just airs reruns of sitcoms, though it is airing a marathon of Drag Race episodes starting this weekend in advance of next week’s premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12. Moving it to Showtime won’t leave VH1 similarly without content, since it has other strong unscripted shows.
I would not be surprised to see Drag Race eventually make the leap to become entirely Showtime-only premium content, because that’s a way for ViacomCBS to monetize Drag Race’s passionate audience.