NEW YORK — Matt Blank, chairman-CEO of Showtime Networks since 1995, has renewed his contract with the company for another three years.
Showtime Networks has racked up steady profits every year under Blank, harvesting $242 million in cash flow in 2003, a 12.4% gain from 2002 (the last figures available from Kagan Research).
Blank also gets credit for hiring Bob Greenblatt 15 months ago to succeed Jerry Offsay as president of entertainment for Showtime.
Greenblatt, a well-regarded exec producer (“Six Feet Under”), has greenlit a number of upcoming original series that could attract lots of media attention. These include “Fat Actress,” with Kirstie Alley as a fictionalized version of herself; “Weeds,” a comedy starring Mary-Louise Parker as a suburban mother who sells pot for a living; and a half-hour series based on the hit movie “Barbershop.”
In the past few years, Showtime has drastically pared down the volume of original movies it commissions, but it will spend a lot more money on them than in the past. On tap for April is satirical musical “Reefer Madness,” based on the play. It stars Alan Cumming and Neve Campbell.
“Our Fathers,” based on the nonfiction book by David France about child molestation by priests, subtitled “The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal,” will appear on Showtime in May.
The network also is sticking with its heavily promoted series “Huff,” starring Hank Azaria as a psychiatrist undergoing a midlife crisis; skein got off to a slow start in the ratings in November. Showtime believes the series will end up finding its audience, particularly as more people seek it out through Showtime On Demand. As a sign of the network’s faith in “Huff,” it has committed to a second cycle of production, to start in June.
Showtime also has a full slate of half-hour and 60-minute series projects in development. Last month, the network canceled “Dead Like Me” after two seasons. It’s also expected to drop “Queer as Folk” after its fifth season. Showtime’s highest-rated series is “The L Word,” a drama about lesbians.
A spokesman for Showtime declined to comment on Blank’s contract renewal.
Blank joined Showtime as executive VP of marketing in 1988 and got promoted to president/chief operating officer in 1991.
Before Showtime, Blank spent 12 years at HBO, rising to the post of senior VP of consumer marketing.
Blank serves on the board and the executive committee of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. and is a member of the diversity committee of the Federal Communications Commission.