Showtime made it official Wednesday, naming Greenblatt/Janollari Studio principal Robert Greenblatt as the pay cabler’s new entertainment president.
Greenblatt joins the Viacom-owned premium channel on July 14, replacing Jerry Offsay, who will transition to a production deal with Showtime. Greenblatt had become the leading contender for the job in recent weeks (Daily Variety, June 13).
Greenblatt will handle all creative and programming oversight at Showtime, including the cabler’s digital channels. He’ll report directly to Showtime Networks chairman-CEO Matthew Blank.
Blank said he was drawn to Greenblatt’s dual experience as producer (“Six Feet Under,” “The Hughleys”) and network exec, having spent eight years at Fox.
“Both periods of his life were characterized by producing interesting, compelling, sophisticated programming,” Blank said. “That will serve him well for creating programming for Showtime. He understands the premium audience and the voice we have. I thought it was terrific to get him to leave and come back to the network side.”
Greenblatt inherits a cabler that has produced several critically acclaimed shows (“The Chris Isaak Show,” “Queer as Folk”) but has yet to premiere a hit on par with HBO’s “The Sopranos” — or his own “Six Feet Under.”
To that end, Blank has charged Greenblatt with developing one or two signature shows for the channel.
“There’s a great opportunity to do a slate of interesting things here,” Greenblatt said. “This company is at a place where it can rise to the next level. There’s a huge potential upside.”
Showtime has traditionally rolled out a great deal of original programming, potentially diluting those shows’ impact (this month alone will see the premiere of two major shows, “Out of Order” and “Dead Like Me”). Greenblatt said it was unlikely the channel would launch so many shows at once going forward.
“There are limited marketing resources and a lot of channels out there now, so it’s really hard to get noticed above the crowd,” he said. “You have to pick and choose things to put out there and go out there in a big way. It probably won’t be four or five new shows every year.
“I’d love to come up with one that is really significant, gets attention and is really good and build from there.”
Meanwhile, Greenblatt said leaving the Greenblatt/Janollari Studio and partner David Janollari wasn’t an easy decision. The duo formed the production shingle in 1997 and immediately got “The Hughleys” on the air. In addition to “Six Feet Under,” Greenblatt/Janollari currently produces two UPN laffers: returning hit “One on One” and newcomer “Eve.”
Janollari will continue with the production company but hasn’t yet determined how he’ll restructure the company, or whether he’ll bring on a new partner.
“I don’t need to rush into anything like a name change or potential partner,” Janollari said. “Right now it’s business as usual. I’m excited about the challenge myself, going it alone, and I’m excited for him to be doing something he’s wanted to do. It’s good for both of us.”
Both execs said they’ll miss working closely together, however.
“I’ve cherished this partnership; it’s an emotional parting of the ways,” Greenblatt said. “I do hope we do shows together at Showtime, just like we did shows together when he was at Warner Bros. and I was at Fox.”
But the call of execdom was too great to pass up, he said.
“I loved being a network exec, and this is the perfect kind of executive job,” he said. “This is a unique company, it isn’t dependent on ratings, and there are no advertisers, no sales department, none of those things that bog down the development process.”
While at Fox, Greenblatt worked his way up to exec VP of primetime programming, working on shows such as “The X-Files,” “Party of Five,” “Melrose Place,” “Ally McBeal” and even the pilot to “The Sopranos.”
Greenblatt was hired at Fox by then-prexy Peter Chernin, who coincidentally was one of Showtime’s first programming toppers. The Rockford, Ill., native kicked off his career at Lorimar Filmed Entertainment, working on features such as “Dangerous Liaisons.”
Offsay, who spent more than nine years as Showtime’s programming topper, announced in March his intention to leave the cabler at the end of the year.
The programming prexy title at Showtime was changed to the more common “entertainment president” label in time for Greenblatt’s arrival.