ON A PRE­MIUM PUR­SUIT

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By Stephen Battaglio stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

David Nevins had a role in sev­eral tele­vi­sion mile­stones. At NBC, he shep­herded the de­vel­op­ment of the mega-hit drama “ER.” At Fox, he gam­bled on the first real-time se­ries, “24.” As the top ex­ec­u­tive at Imag­ine Tele­vi­sion, he over­saw “Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment” and “Fri­day Night Lights,” two lowrated but ac­claimed shows that sur­vived sev­eral sea­sons be­cause of the power of pas­sion­ate view­ers. He joined Show­time as pres­i­dent in 2010, and the first se­ries he picked up, “Home­land,” earned the pre­mium ca­ble net­work its first drama se­ries Emmy. Just weeks be­fore his re­cent el­e­va­tion to pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the CBS-owned pre­mium ca­ble net­work, Nevins sat with The En­ve­lope to dis­cuss how he’s pre­pared Show­time for the new TV land­scape.

Do awards mean more to­day be­cause of the new ways shows are seen by view­ers?

Em­mys are the ul­ti­mate foun­da­tion of qual­ity, and qual­ity is more sal­able than ever. For those of us in the sub­scrip­tion tele­vi­sion busi­ness, it’s prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant thing. It’s the way to have peo­ple say those guys have the good stuff. The last two years at the Em­mys, we’ve had more se­ries nom­i­na­tions than any other net­work. Qual­ity is mon­e­tize-able and Em­mys are a val­i­da­tion of qual­ity.

Show­time will soon have an over-the-top ser­vice, in which you won’t need ca­ble to watch. Will hav­ing a stream­ing ser­vice change the per­son­al­ity of the chan­nel?

Any change in how your ser­vice is dis­trib­uted is go­ing to have some ef­fect on how we pro­gram the ser­vice. I think we want to re­main pre­mium. We’re go­ing to re­main in adult, so­phis­ti­cated sto­ry­telling. I don’t see that chang­ing any time soon.

The TV busi­ness ap­pears to be mov­ing to a time when view­ers will be more dis­cern­ing about what chan­nels they buy. If peo­ple asked why they should choose Show­time, what would you tell them?

I think our strength is the depth and breadth of our se­ries. We have more se­ries that mat­ter to the so­phis­ti­cated adult crowd than any­body. We are deep with “Shame­less,” “Home­land,” “Mas­ters of Sex,” “The Af­fair,” “House of Lies” and “Ray Dono­van.” We have more se­ries that mat­ter, and I think that has been borne out at the Em­mys. That’s go­ing to be our strength mov­ing for­ward.

“The Af­fair” is such a quiet show that re­quires a lot of pa­tience. Did you worry it would have trou­ble get­ting no­ticed?

There was con­cern whether it was too small a con­cept. It turned out not to be the case. It be­came sticky very quickly. In­side of it, it’s ex­plo­sive and it’s deal­ing with raw hu­man emo­tion more than gi­ant con­cepts. It can be equally ad­dic­tive, but you have to know how to bring peo­ple into the tent. For­tu­nately, smart mar­ket­ing and po­si­tion be­hind “Home­land,” it caught on very quickly. It made a mark al­most im­me­di­ately by be­ing counter to the big­ger­con­cept shows that are on ca­ble these days.

How of­ten do peo­ple tell you they are un­com­fort­able watch­ing it with their spouse?

That is al­ways the lit­mus test. The ques­tion is: What is the proper pos­ture to take when you watch it with your spouse? Do you laugh at it? Do you take it se­ri­ously? Should you dis­sect it? Should you crit­i­cize it? It leads to some very in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions. The peo­ple who are con­fi­dent in their re­la­tion­ships en­joy watch­ing the show with their spouses.

De­scribe the phone call to Kee­bler to in­form them one of their elves was go­ing to go on a killing spree on your se­ries “Hap­py­ish.”

There was no phone call. But Kee­bler put out a state­ment that said the elves are alive and well and work­ing in their tree. It was ac­tu­ally very funny. Most brands seem to have adopted [their roles on] “Hap­py­ish” with hu­mor and great pride.

Kirk McKoy Los An­ge­les Times

SHOW­TIME CEO David Nevins says the net­work’s strong suit is in hav­ing se­ries “that mat­ter”: “That’s go­ing to be our strength mov­ing for­ward.”

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