CBS Creative Chief David Nevins on His Plans to Compete With HBO Max

David Nevins, President & CEO of
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Appearing at Recode’s Code Media conference in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon, CBS chief creative officer David Nevins didn’t hold back criticizing one of his biggest competitors: “If you are going to put out one main product, you have to be as mainstream as you can,” Nevins said about WarnerMedia’s plans for HBO Max.

Minutes later, he doubled down. “The enemy is being boring, and the enemy is sort of down the middle.” Suggesting that WarnerMedia may tone down its programming to appeal to wider audiences for HBO Max, Nevins promised that Showtime would stay edgy. “I like to be provocative, and I like to be unpredictable,” he said. “I like to be an equal opportunity defender.”

He added, “I want Showtime to stand for: Uh, that is risky. I can’t believe they got away with that.”

Nevins appeared at the conference shortly after TimeWarner CEO John Stankey, who talked about his experience with the merger of AT&T and Time Warner. As part of this process, WarnerMedia had to merge four different corporate entities that at one point even had separate corporate holiday calendars, according to Stankey.

CBS and Viacom are about to deal with similar issues once their merger closes in the coming weeks, but Nevins once again suggested that the company would approach things a little differently. “We have a bunch of hives of creativity, creative factories,” he said. “We clearly made the decision not to just mush it together.”

Ahead of the closing of the deal, Nevins was unable to detail many of the company’s future plans. But reading between the lines, his remarks seemed to suggest that the company may launch additional subscription streaming services targeting dedicated audiences down the line. For instance, Nevins stressed how CBS and Viacom were already successfully serving key demographics overlooked by others, including African Americans and LGBTQ viewers.

“There is going to be a lot of opportunity to play a slightly different game than the other guys,” he said. “There is an opportunity for us to be just a little bit more bespoke.”

In addition to subscription services, this will also include ad-supported video through Viacom’s Pluto streaming service. Pluto was seeing a lot of growth, Nevins said, and CBS would be adding more content to it over time. “We’re gonna ride the wave of rapid growth and take it from there,” he said.