David Nevins, who took the reins as Showtime's CEO in January, convened a conference call with reporters aimed at proving a mid-year overview and touting the network's competitive position, which Nevins rated the best in its nearly 40-year history.
"Nobody else has the consistent strength of shows," he said, rattling off titles including Billions, Penny Dreadful and Ray Donovan. "We're very nicely spread throughout the year. ... I don't think our schedule has ever been stronger."
Homeland, he said, has been renewed for its seventh and eighth seasons. Its sixth campaign will kick off next January, a shift from its traditional fall bow. The next season of Homeland takes place in the 70-odd days between Election Day and Inauguration Day, said Nevins, and looks at the transferal of power from one president to the next. Nevins noted the show's "uncanny ability" to reflect real-world events.
Asked about its potential to endure beyond Season 8, Nevins said, "I can't look that far ahead." Later, he elaborated, "Homeland is a show that is constantly reinventing itself. ... More than most, it has an open-ended expiration date."
The network also announced a batch of new projects including Purity, a limited-series adaptation of Jonathan Franzen's novel; Guerilla, exec-produced by John Ridley and starring Idris Elba; and a Jamie Foxx comedy pilot called White Famous, which will see the comedian depict the challenge of a minority performer making it big in mainstream America.
In keeping with its recent vow to premiere new shows monthly, Showtime set fall premiere dates for Masters of Sex (Sept. 11); Shameless (Oct. 2); and The Affair (Nov. 20). Undated but teed up for the second quarter of 2017 is the reboot of Twin Peaks.
Nevins asserted that the pay-TV network's collection of talent was better than any other network's. Unlike some competitors, "we're not in the churn-and-burn business," he said. Talent is attracted to Showtime, he said, because "they know that when we put their shows on the air, they're going to get noticed."
The ability to entice premium-grade talent has long been a calling card for HBO. Asked if the point of touting its recent success was to exploit recent stumbles by HBO, Nevins took the high road. "From where I sit, it looks like HBO is doing quite well. I don't think it's a zero-sum game. It's just been a good period for us. We've been delivering with consistency and that's a lot of what's driving our international success. ... They're doing just fine. It's not us versus them. It's a much bigger universe than HBO and Showtime."
The network's effort to premiere new shows monthly, phased in earlier this year, "has been an evolution" for the company, Nevins said. "We now operate in an ecosystem where it's easier than ever to sign up and turn us off. There's a real premium on offering new stuff all the time. I think it's been energizing to everybody here. I've been pushing to up our metabolism and our rate of introduction. You see signups go up around premieres and finales. The more premieres you have, the more hooks you have for signups and that's the name of the game."
Nevins said the network is "definitely" not planning any series that will appear exclusively on digital platforms, as sister network CBS is planning to do to bolster its All Access OTT service. "I don't see any reason" for such a move, he said. "We've been growing with our traditional affiliates as well, so I want to keep that going."
For most Showtime series, Nevins estimated, 80% of their viewing is via VOD, DVR or other delayed-viewing platforms.
Michael Malone contributed to this report.