Showtime is increasing its original content this year by 30% more programming hours in both scripted and unscripted fare, announced co-president of entertainment Jana Winograde at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour Friday.
“For the past five years, there’s been this incredible growth in content and huge behemoths coming into the over-the-top world and we continue to grow,” she said, adding that it’s “hard to say” when too much is too much, so long as there is audience interest in the material.
Amid a consolidating industry environment, the network continues to lean into its framing as a “boutique option to the big-box stores,” affirming that even with the programming expansion, it intends to remain a smaller operation. But Showtime execs’ comments, however good humored, made clear that they’re aware of the budding battle for viewers ahead.
“We don’t just dump a series, send an email and hope it connects,” said her fellow co-head Gary Levine, taking a not-too-subtle dig at Netflix’s binge-inducing model of viewing. Throwing shade on all fronts, he even opened the presentation with a faux ad for “Showtime Maxi-Plus,” a joke denoting the forthcoming Disney Plus and HBO Max streaming services on the horizon.
“We premiere each of our shows with our entire company focused on launching that series successfully and let the conversation build over the months that we continue to roll out new episodes,” he said.
On the topic of individual shows, Levine sidestepped a separate question about William H. Macy’s role in the college admissions scandal, simply saying that “Bill was just really happy to be back to work on Shameless, and we were really happy to have someone of his talent someone of his work ethic and the leader that he is on the set of ‘Shameless.'”
Actor Felicity Huffman, Macy’s wife, pleaded guilty in May to paying a $15,000 bribe to artificially improve her daughter’s SAT score. Macy, who was not charged, reportedly agreed to the deal with the mastermind behind the scandal, admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer.
As “The Chi” enters its third season, Lena Waithe will appear on-screen in the third season of “The Chi,” said Levine, saying she’s “really all over it.”
The execs addressed the misconduct and harassment accusations against actor Jason Mitchell on Fox-produced Showtime series “The Chi,” with Winograde saying they were made aware of the allegations against Mitchell fairly immediately.
Mitchell was initially given “guidance about appropriate behavior on the set.” The incident followed news of misconduct allegations on the set of a Showtime series, with “SMILF” showrunner and creator Frankie Shaw accused of both making an actress uncomfortable on set and discriminating against African-American writers on the ABC Studios-produced show.
When asked about how what they’ve learned from such incidents when it comes to navigating relationships with and managing new, less experienced showrunners, Levine acknowledged that there is a “learning curve.”
“One could play it safe and go with the tried and true, but then you’d never get the new voices, and we’re so proud of the new voices we’re cultivating” said Levine. “We’re all figuring this out, as an industry and trying to build the right support mechanisms in with more experienced people around them.”
“These are delicate situations,” he added. “We;re dealing with young, talented people’s careers, and I think we take the allegations really seriously, we investigate them thoroughly and confidentially, and then we take decisive action.”
“Bottom line,” he said, “[SMILF] is no longer on the air and [Mitchell] is no longer on ‘The Chi.'”