Programming a premium cable network in the Peak TV era is not for the faint of heart. Showtime Networks president-CEO David Nevins discusses the new economics of direct-to-consumer streaming and how it has changed the way Showtime operates in the latest episode of “Strictly Business,” Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment.
“You have to go the extra mile to find originality,” Nevins says. “With so much stuff happening out there, there are a lot of people repeating themselves and playing in a similar sandbox. You’ve got to go further for originality. But the range of people who want to do television is greater than ever. You’ve got to dig a little harder and be a little bit more adventurous than in the old days, but that’s the good news.”
Listen to this week’s podcast for free below:
Showtime launched its standalone streaming app in July 2015, which marked the first time prospective subscribers could even consider shelling out for CBS Corp.’s pay cabler without the need for a larger MVPD package. For Nevins, the biggest impact of the move into streaming has been the clear connection between programming and sign-up activity. “In a streaming universe, every time you put something new out that people are interested in, it drives sign-ups,” he said. He cited drama series “The Chi,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s undercover improv series “Who Is America,” and the multi-part documentary “The Fourth Estate” as recent catalysts.
In the wide-ranging conversation, Nevins also offers some insight into the origins of “Who Is America,” and reflects on the legacy of “Homeland” for Showtime as the series heads into its ninth and final season next year. Nevins defends Cohen’s prankster approach to gathering material for “Who Is America,” which has been criticized for Cohen’s tactic of targeting political figures and celebrities by donning elaborate costumes and prosthetic devices to shield his identity. “Who Is America” was developed in secret for 18 months before Cohen unveiled its existence via social media.
“He is a provocateur and a brilliant artist,” Nevins said. “I think it’s really important to create space for provocateurs to provoke and satirists to (craft) satire. I think he’s a fair editor in what he puts on the air. He’s an improv comedian. The essence of improv is to go where people will lead you, and he lets people lead him down some pretty crazy paths.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Listen to the podcast above for the full interview, or check out previous “Strictly Business” episodes featuring AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan, Spotify’s Dawn Ostroff, Bankable Productions’ Tyra Banks, HBO’s Richard Plepler, and Entertainment Studios’ Byron Allen. A new episode debuts every week and can be downloaded on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.