Showtime shakes up PR operation

Licata to upgrade talent relations, build brands

NEW YORK — Showtime Networks’ public-relations operation is getting its biggest shakeup in more than a decade with the signing of veteran Richard Licata as exec VP in charge of programming publicity for Showtime, the Movie Channel and all of their various multiplex channels.

Licata’s hiring for the newly created post marks the first executive appointment engineered by Robert Greenblatt since he took over as president of Showtime Entertainment in July from Jerry Offsay. Neither Greenblatt nor Licata was available for comment over the New Year’s weekend.

Cable analysts say that the L.A.-based Licata’s role will be vital to Showtime’s goal of trying to emerge more forcefully from the shadow of its bigger and better-funded rival HBO. He reports at the end of the month.

Licata, who has resigned as exec VP of television and digital media for Rogers & Cowan, once worked for HBO. He was one of the key strategists who helped to ramp up the industry profile of HBO from 1985-93, guiding it to record numbers of Emmy and Golden Globe awards. During that period, Licata was HBO’s VP of media relations, West Coast, taking charge of the publicity for the network’s movies and series.

One of Licata’s aims at Showtime will be to build up the marketing of network series such as “Queer as Folk,” “Dead Like Me,” “Soul Food” and “Chris Isaak,” bringing them to the attention not only of pay TV subscribers but of critics and Emmy voters as well.

Licata also will be charged with upgrading talent relations, an area that the Hollywood agencies say could use some bolstering — even such fundamentals as buying gifts for the actors when their series gets renewed and having PR reps regularly on the set of Showtime movies and series to smooth out any problems.

Under the new PR setup, Nancy Glauberman will continue as senior VP of corporate communications, based in New York. But the people on Glauberman’s staff who deal with programming, both in L.A. (like Robin McMillan, senior VP of public relations) and in New York, will now report to Licata.

For the last five years at Rogers & Cowan, Licata has supervised such TV-series clients as “Will & Grace,” “The Shield,” “Monk” and “Judge Judy.” Other clients under his bailiwick included Discovery Networks, FX Networks, the Universal TV Group and Lions Gate Entertainment.

Licata’s campaign for “The Shield” led to two first-time-ever awards to a basic-cable network, FX: the Golden Globe nod for best drama series and the Emmy for best actor to the star of “The Shield,” Michael Chiklis.

Before joining Rogers & Cowan, Licata was senior VP of publicity and corporate communications for the Fox Broadcasting Co., where he worked with Greenblatt, who was exec VP of primetime programming for Fox at the time.

Prior to Fox, Licata was a communications and marketing consultant for the MGM Worldwide TV Group, Mark Carliner Prods. and Citadel Entertainment.

Licata started his PR career as a senior publicist for HBO in 1980, rising to VP of media relations in 1985. In the 1970s, he served as an entertainment reporter and editor for the New York Daily News.