Showtime Boss David Nevins on ‘Twin Peaks,’ Streaming Strategy, Weekly News Show

'Twin Peaks' Will Be a 'Closed-ended
Patrick Ecclesine/Showtime Networks

Showtime may have been shut out of the Golden Globes nominations, but president and CEO David Nevins isn’t overly concerned.

“The Golden Globes giveth, and taketh away — or rather, they giveth and then don’t,” Nevins quipped Monday afternoon at Showtime’s TCA press tour executive session.

Nevins is feeling good with his networks’ fairly stacked schedule, and now a successful streaming service, with a little more than a million subscribers, that delivers his programming to just about any device you can think of. Showtime’s over-the-top (OTT) sees a big surge in sign-ups with each season and series premiere, he said, as well as big device-giving occasions like Christmas.

The appeal of having said streaming service goes beyond just being able to distribute programming to a wider audience, Nevins said. The network gets to see how and when fans are watching series, when they sign up, “and who canceled, by the way,” Nevins said.

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He held up “The Affair” as an example of how that information is used: “Generally you end your series halfway through December. In this case, we carried it over the year, we aired it on New Year’s Day, and it really worked.”

Nevins no longer views the linear premiere as sacred, which explains Showtime’s tendency to offer its season premiere online ahead of their linear debut. “There’s nothing magical for us about getting people to watch it on premiere night,” he said.

Thus, when the highly anticipated “Twin Peaks” revival bows on May 21 with a two-hour premiere, subscribers will be able to immediately stream the next two hours. The new season of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s heavily serialized series will be 18 hours, and while Nevins didn’t rule out the possibility of making more with Lynch, “it’s designed to be a one-time, closed-ended event,” he said.

“I have no idea what to expect in terms of ratings, but I know it will drive sign-ups,” Nevins added. “The trick is converting those people to long-term Showtime subscribers.”

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To aid in that endeavor, the network has been continuing a full-court press on originals. Just a few years ago, Showtime used to spend 40% of its programming budget on original programming. Now, that percentage is up to 75%. Newer entrants like “Billions” and “The Affair” and “Ray Donovan” will be joined by Jay Pharoah comedy “White Famous” and Chicago-set drama “The Chi.”

Nevins said he’s also mulling a foray into the weekly news/talk space, a la HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” and TBS’ “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” thanks to the success of docuseries “The Circus,” which Nevins said was drawing a million pairs of eyeballs a week. “It has big time potential beyond just an election,” he said. The election night also saw the biggest number of sign-ups in the network’s history, thanks in no small part to “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert’s election night special.

He also addressed “Shameless” star Emmy Rossum’s salary negotiations ahead of the show’s renewal for an eighth season, when she was seeking pay parity with co-star William H. Macy. “To be clear, it felt like parity was justified in this case,” he said. “I think it had a very good conclusion.”

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