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Showtime’s David Nevins: Shows Must Reflect U.S. Diversity

EDINBURGH — Showtime president David Nevins has said the high-achieving U.S. cable network needs to do more about diversity.

In a wide-ranging and packed session at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Nevins, who takes over as Showtime’s CEO next year, said that in terms of gender content creation the channel had almost got it right.

“We have a lot of strong female leads in our shows and we’re getting close to 50-50 in terms of who actually creates the shows,” said Nevins.

“As for reflecting the racial diversity of America we’ve got a lot of work to do… Diversity is definitely on our agenda, especially as we are now in around a quarter of American homes.”

He signaled Showtime was working on a new pilot about a young African-American brought up on Chicago’s South Side.

“In the old days Showtime did a lot of great African-American shows and gay shows like ‘Queer as Folk,’” added Nevins.

Earlier, during a previous festival session, new Discovery Channel president Rich Ross revealed that since joining the company he had worked hard to broaden the appeal of Discovery’s U.S. shows by making them more female-friendly and more attuned to ethnic minorities.

He said: “I wanted to make Discovery less male and more diverse, and appeal to more African-Americans and more Latinos… We have to bring people in… We wanted more mothers, more girlfriends and sons to join their dads. A lot of 18-to 26-year-olds still live at home in America.”

As a result Ross said that Discovery’s popularity with young men, women and ethnic minorities had recently increased.

Despite not doing enough to reflect America’s diversity Showtime is on a roll. This year alone its shows have won 24 Emmy nominations for eight out of 10 shows, said Nevins.

“The important thing is that actors who come on Showtime know they are going to get noticed,” he said.

While scripted dramas, such as “Homeland,” “Masters of Sex,” “The Affair” and “Penny Dreadful,” have all gained acclaim for the premium cable web, comedy is problematic, although the service has scored with “Episodes” and “House of Lies.”

“There’s great cable comedy out there to be had,” Nevins insisted, “and I intend to find it.”

As for the secret of Showtime’s success in drama, Nevins said above all else he looks for “originality” because today’s TV audience is so sophisticated and is faced with endless choice.

He said: “I want to be surprised. I want depth of character…with a complicated psychology and stories that are relevant to today’s world…

“Anything that is boring is the enemy of good TV. I have some attention span issues. Our shows shouldn’t feel like work or medicine.”

One of Showtime’s most eagerly awaited new shows is the reboot of “Twin Peaks.” Nevins said the show would resolve questions raised by the first season.

He said: “It feels satisfying. If you’ve watched the first round, it answers questions. It’s an incredible journey and ends with definitiveness.”

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