It's a partnership that makes perfect sense. You have Showtime, a network that has proven in the past that it isn't afraid of digital downloads. And you have Amazon's new digital video distribution service, now labeled Unbox.
Showtime got some attention earlier this year with its making whole episodes of Weeds available on iTunes before it was released on DVD, with the ultimate discovery being that making digital downloads available didn't cut into the profits of the DVD sales. While I never saw any data about how many people might have purchased it both off iTunes and then again from the DVD set, it wouldn't surprise me because non-Showtime subscribers who wanted to check out the show through iTunes may have wanted a more permanent "official" copy, leading to purchasing the DVD set.
Whatever the case, Showtime will move into the Unbox system, with content including Weeds, The L Word, Sleeper Cell, Fat Actress, Dave Chappelle: For What It's Worth, and Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. As with iTunes, these will be made available for $1.99, and Dexter will be distributed simultaneously for one cent to encourage people to check out the new show.
The TelevisionWeek article from James Hibberd said, "The move is the latest in a series of digital content expansions for Showtime, which is seeking to distinguish itself from fellow premium network HBO in the new media space by making whole episodes widely available in streaming and download formats." This distinction--to establish itself as separate from the more elusive HBO series, could yield good results for the company by making its programs more widely available (helps when you have good shows, which is the case with Weeds.
The announcement was made last Wednesday. Unbox is also offering several top CBS shows, a variety of MTV Networks programming, and other shows, with its visibility on Amazon giving the service a potential advantage, as I've written about before.