The announcement was made by Joe Ianniello, president and acting CEO of CBS Corp. Nevins has also been promoted to chairman of Showtime Networks Inc., and will remain as the business’ CEO. He will remain based in Los Angeles and report to Ianniello.
“David has a brilliant creative mind and an impressive track record of success at Showtime and in the entertainment industry,” said Ianniello. “He is a forward-thinking leader who has driven programming excellence and subscriber growth for the cable network and its growing over-the-top service. The combination of David working with the outstanding and proven creative leaders we have in place will continue to build our position as a global premium content powerhouse.”
The news comes just days after Variety exclusively reported that Nevins was in talks for an expanded role within CBS. In his new role, Nevins will be responsible for oversight of programming, marketing, and research across CBS Television Studios, the CBS Television Network’s Entertainment division, Showtime Networks, and, in conjunction with CBS Interactive, programming for CBS All Access.
He will also oversee CBS’ interest in the CW, a joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment. Julie McNamara (CBS All Access), David Stapf (CBS Television Studios), Kelly Kahl (CBS Entertainment), George Schweitzer (marketing), and Radha Subramanyam (research) will continue in their leadership roles in these respective areas.
“We have great strength in the creative leadership across the Company’s content divisions, and I am excited to get to work with the talented teams that run CBS’ programming services,” said Nevins. “Together, we are committed to growing our businesses, offering industry-leading shows that are among the most powerful and most loved across broadcast, streaming and premium cable.”
Nevins’ role in CBS All Access will focus on programming for the Eye’s SVOD service, working with Stapf and McNamara. Business and technical operations will continue to run directly through CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone and Marc Debevoise, president and COO of CBS Interactive.
Nevins’ promotion comes a little more than a month after the forced resignation of longtime CBS Corp. chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves amid sexual harassment allegations. The move to expand Nevins’ oversight of content at the company came as a result of Ianniello recognizing that Moonves’ hasty exit left a management void. Moonves was intimately involved with content development and greenlights and related decisions.
The perception within the industry and on Wall Street was that CBS could suffer without a strong leader on creative matters. Ianniello has no background in the creative realm and has been clear in his internal conversations that he does not expect to fill Moonves’ shoes in that regard.
Nevins has had a strong track record as a programmer during his eight-year tenure at Showtime. Most recently, Showtime has generated critical buzz for new shows including drama “The Chi” and comedies “Kidding” and “SMILF.” Limited series “Escape at Dannemora,” premiering Nov. 18, is an awards-bait vehicle for stars Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Arquette, and Paul Dano as well as director-producer Ben Stiller.
Ianniello has faced some strain in his relationship with CBS’ controlling shareholder, vice chairman Shari Redstone. He is known to have been the driving force in CBS’ decision earlier this year to file suit against Redstone’s National Amusements Inc. (NAI) holding company, challenging its control of the company’s voting shares. That suit was settled in early September as part of the departure of Moonves amid sexual harassment allegations. According to multiple sources, Ianniello has taken a “cards on the table” approach to his dealings with Redstone and the rest of CBS’ newly overhauled board of directors. He has kept a steady line of communication about the state of the company, particularly because six new directors joined the 11-member panel amid the Moonves transition. This week, Ianniello and other division heads, including Nevins, are set to make presentations to the board outlining the state of play and their long-term strategic visions.
A similar management upheaval took place this time two years ago at Viacom, the other conglomerate controlled by NAI. But unlike that process, CBS Corp. is operating well, which takes some of the urgency out of the need to find a permanent CEO. CBS is also not facing a ballooning debt load, as Viacom did after the ouster of longtime chairman-CEO Philippe Dauman in August 2016.
The move to elevate Nevins is a sign that CBS aims to stabilize post-Moonves management concerns by establishing Nevins as the leader of content strategy while Ianniello drives business and financial decisions as he did for a decade under Moonves.
NAI’s interest in bringing CBS and Viacom back together as a single corporate entity — as they were from 2000 to 2005 — was the spark of the conflict between the Moonves regime and Redstone. The settlement agreement reached with Moonves called for a two-year moratorium on NAI proposing another attempt at a CBS-Viacom reunification. Despite those terms, however, speculation in and outside the company is that the two will be brought back together long before 2020. However, a source close to the situation said the new CBS board is focused on gaining a better understanding of the company’s operations, and also keeping options open for a prospective buyer for CBS.
Before joining Showtime, Nevins was an Emmy Award-winning producer and network programming executive. He served as president of Imagine Television from 2002-2010, where he oversaw development and production and was an executive producer on all Imagine Television shows. Under his leadership, Imagine produced “Arrested Development,” which won the Emmy for outstanding comedy series, and “24,” which won for outstanding drama series. He also developed and executive produced the critically acclaimed series “Friday Night Lights.”
Prior to joining Imagine, Nevins served as executive vice president of programming at Fox Broadcasting Company. Before that, he served as senior vice president of primetime series at NBC, where he was responsible for the development and creative supervision of such renowned dramas and comedies as “ER,” “The West Wing,” “Will & Grace,” “Homicide: Life on the Street,” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”