×

New Showtime Entertainment Co-Presidents Outline Their Plans to Maintain Stability

CBS is in the midst of very public will-they-or-won’t-they merger chatter as it reportedly circles Viacom, teasing a union that would promise big changes. But at CBS-owned Showtime, new co-presidents of entertainment Gary Levine and Jana Winograde are bullish that their premium cable network is established enough and autonomous enough to continue on its own merry way, unencumbered by machinations overhead.

“There’s a culture here of stability,” says Levine in his deep, mellifluous voice at Showtime’s West Hollywood headquarters. “A lot of people have been here a long time [and] feel comfortable here. So even though there are some changes going on with parent corporations and stuff, we feel very secure and very solid.”

Nevertheless, Levine and Winograde’s joint ascent is the apparent product of trickle-down executive shifts, following Leslie Moonves’ ouster as CBS CEO last
September amid a flurry of sexual misconduct allegations. Their boss, Showtime CEO David Nevins, soon added chairman and CBS chief creative officer to his list of responsibilities, filling the creative gulf left by Moonves even as he continues to run Showtime as CEO.

Levine is an 18-year vet in Showtime’s original programming unit who’s seasoned in the storytelling and creative demands of premium TV. Winograde is a 2017 addition who ran business operations at the network after two decades at ABC and has been at the forefront of reinventing the linear TV business model. Together, they present a sort of left-brain, right-brain united front.

“When any decisions need to be made, we tend to make them together,” says Winograde. “It’s been fairly seamless.”

Greater production demands and stiff competition for talent mean that the network’s programming budget has increased, but Levine takes pride in not emptying Showtime’s wallet to outbid competitors.

“That being said, we are committed to growth, both on the scripted and unscripted programming side,” says Winograde. She cites “Desus & Mero,” Showtime’s recent first foray into late night, as “a great example of that.”

Betting on the right shows is vital to subscriber growth online: Originals account for more than 80% of viewer consumption on streaming service Showtime OTT, said CBS chief digital officer Jim Lanzone on a recent earnings call.

Showtime’s growth story now is “obviously in the [over-the-top] space,” says Winograde. The execs are cognizant of the streaming evolution that has called upon others to enter the paid subscription business; Showtime’s advantage is that it has always been pay-to-enter.

Churn, or customer attrition, is less of a concern for Showtime than it is for pure-play streamers because so much of its business model relies on traditional cable providers. Across traditional and digital platforms, the network grew total subscribers 8% year over year in the first quarter of 2019.

Its four-year-old direct-to-consumer streamer offers some critical data about viewer habits: for example, the first show that a new customer watches after subscribing; the first shows viewed in the initial seven-day period; or which shows are being watched all the way through.  

“Now we have all these other indicators of value,” says Winograde. That could be a show with less-than-stellar ratings that’s actually a strong subscriber-getter, or a series that helps bolster retention. “It’s surprising, sometimes, how much value a show can have that — just looking at the ratings — you wouldn’t have figured or vice versa.”

CBS doesn’t break out streaming subscriber figures by division, but CBS All Access and Showtime OTT have collectively reached more than 8 million subscribers — putting them ahead of schedule — with an ambitious target of 25 million by 2022.

Showtime is now looking for growth out of “The Loudest Voice,” “City on a Hill” and upcoming legal thriller “Your Honor,” starring Bryan Cranston as a straight-arrow judge whose teenage son commits a hit-and-run, killing the son of the biggest Mafia don in New Orleans.

Other shows that are in the works include “The L Word: Generation Q,” Jonas Cuarón’s “Hombre” and a TV adaptation of popular shoot-’em-up video-game “Halo,” the latter of which is being transformed into a series that will somehow ultimately befit Showtime’s brand of complex character drama.

“The saddest thing to me is when — and I get these from time to time — I get a group email from a director or a writer saying, ‘Please watch my show that’s dropping this Friday on Netflix,’” says Levine. “It literally drops, and you know, one out of 20 or 30 might actually cause some ripples and resonate. Every show we do, we go with trumpets blaring and the full force of this network behind it.” 

More Biz

  • The Lion King

    'Lion King' VFX Supervisor Rob Legato to Keynote at the 2019 View Conference

    Rob Legato, visual effects supervisor of “The Lion King,” “The Addams Family” co-director Conrad Vernon and Baobab Studios’ co-founder and chief creative officer Eric Darnell, director of the VR studio’s Emmy- and Annie-winning VR short “Crow: The Legend,” are rounding out the keynote speakers at this fall’s 20th edition of the View Conference in Turin, [...]

  • Pinewood Studios James Bond

    Netflix's Shepperton Studios Deal Is Stretching the U.K.'s Production Limits

    Netflix’s huge new hub at Shepperton Studios outside London is a further fillip for Britain’s booming production sector. Amid jitters over Brexit and its effects on the economy, the streaming giant’s commitment is a vote of confidence in the U.K. entertainment industry and a continuing source of local jobs. But the decision by Netflix to [...]

  • It

    Producer Sues Warner Bros. Over 'It' Film Adaptations

    A producer who developed the original “It” TV miniseries sued Warner Bros. on Thursday, alleging the studio breached his contract by making the films “It” and “It Chapter Two” without him. Frank Konigsberg and Larry Sanitsky were running Telepictures in the early 1980s when they acquired the rights to the Stephen King novel. They developed [...]

  • Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer

    Starz Nears Realignment: Why Lionsgate Won't Hire a CEO to Replace Chris Albrecht

    Nearly six months after Starz CEO Chris Albrecht exited in February, Lionsgate brass is moving closer to a revamp of the premium TV network’s executive structure. According to insiders, at least one thing is clear: Albrecht is not expected to be replaced as CEO. Instead, Lionsgate chief executive Jon Feltheimer is taking a more active [...]

  • Movie Ticket Subscriptions

    As MoviePass Fades, Theaters Fall In Love With Subscription Services

    MoviePass may be cratering, but movie theater subscriptions are here to stay. AMC and Cinemark already operate their own online ticketing services. And by the end of July, Regal Entertainment is expected to unveil a subscription plan for customers accustomed to getting all manner of entertainment for a monthly fee. With ticket sales down more [...]

  • John FordNPact Awards, Show, Los Angeles,

    John Ford to Exit as Head of Unscripted Producers Trade Association NPact

    John Ford has stepped down as general manager of NPact, the trade association that represents unscripted TV producers. Ford is exiting the post he’s held since 2015 because of the potential for conflicts of interest arising from his role as head of programming for digital multicast outlets Justice Network and Quest Network. The channels were [...]

  • Woodstock 50 Applies for Vernon Downs

    Woodstock 50 Applies for Vernon Downs Permit Yet Again

    For better or worse, Woodstock 50 isn’t giving up on Vernon Downs, despite being rejected twice already: The producers have applied for another permit to hold the festival at Vernon Downs, according to the Utica Observer Dispatch. Town Attorney Vincent Rossi confirmed the application was submitted Wednesday. This is the festival’s third application; previous applications [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content