Pasadena, Calif. — Fresh off two wins at the Golden Globes for The Affair, Showtime Networks president David Nevins is confident in the pay cabler’s ability to remain a leading force in the premium original programming space, even in the face of increased competition from digital over-the-top services such as Netflix and Amazon.
“Almost every day, we get asked questions about over-the-top — how, when, where,” Nevins said Monday during the opening remarks of TCA winter press tour executive session. Calling an over-the-top play “certainly something we’re prepared for,” but offering no details about specific plans, Nevins said, “What I want to talk about is how we’re preparing for the future from a programming point of view.”
To that end, Nevins made several programming announcements, including a series order for Happyish, a comedy that was delayed following the death of lead actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The pilot has since been reshot with Steve Coogan in the central role.
Asked how Showtime can compete against Netflix and Amazon, both of which also took home Globes for their original series Sunday night (for House of Cards and Transparent, respectively), Nevins noted that the digital services are both “competitors and customers,” who feature their own original programming but also purchase streaming rights to older seasons of Showtime’s shows.
“There are definitely a lot of people coming into the premium space trying to make high-quality stuff,” Nevins said. “It’s a competitive world, but I think we’re very well situated to compete going forward. I kind of like the hand that we’re playing. But, you know, Amazon — I think Transparent is a great show. It’s a show that I wish we had.”
Saying that The Affair, already renewed for a second season, was never considered a candidate to become an anthology season featuring a new cast and story every season, Nevins bemoaned what he called “the weird idea that there’s some sort of moral superiority in closed-ended, eight-episode, 10-episode miniseries.” He posited that television critics and the press have a “bit of a bias toward the closed end,” but also noted that the network’s upcoming continuation of Twin Peaks will feature such a closed-ended narrative.
Speaking to reporters after the panel, Nevins confirmed that parent company CBS Corp. has invested additional financial resources in expanding Showtime’s original programming slate. “The value of our shows internationally has only gone up,” he said. “The value of the Showtime brand has only gone up.” With more programming, Showtime is eyeing a move into expanding its number of hours of original programming per week. “We’re on two hours on Sunday. Do we go to three hours, or do we go to another night? I’ll figure that out when the time comes.”
Other highlights from the panel included:
• “I was kind of begging them and hoping to pass muster with David Lynch,” Nevins said when asked how the he convinced Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost to bring back Twin Peaks, scheduled to premiere in 2016. Nevins described his role in the new miniseries as “More or less writing checks and leaving them alone. It’s David’s show. It’s Mark’s show. I will be the grateful recipient of it.”
• Regarding comedies, Nevins said that the network and the broader television world has struggled in establishing new shows. “It’s been frustrating that I haven’t been able to launch more comedies,” Nevins said, adding that he is excited to finally be moving forward with Happyish. “I think comedy in general on television has been just a little bit challenged. Not challenged. I think people are making great shows of all kinds.” He added, “I don’t think comedy has been breaking ground as much as hour drama has been breaking ground. So I feel like there’s enormous opportunity there."