Nowadays, the 'L' word at Showtime is 'lofty'

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Showtime executives touted rising subscriptions and revenue at the premium cable network Wednesday while taking a shot at the struggling broadcast business.

Chairman and CEO Matt Blank said Showtime added 1 million subscribers last year and reaches 16.5 million households, the most for the 32-year-old network to date, while the channel increasingly is seen as creatively compatible with chief rival HBO.

"We feel very strongly about how our programming is doing and how it relates to anyone on the dial," Blank said.

"I'm just glad that so many of you feel the playing field is a little more even," entertainment president Robert Greenblatt added. "When I came to this company six years ago, I know that many of you felt this wasn't the case."

Greenblatt said he sees the reduced scripted hours at the broadcast networks as only part of the story. Showtime has three season premieres Sunday: the new "United States of Tara," sophomore "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" and the final-season debut of "The L Word."

Greenblatt also predicted that broadcasters will cede further ground. "The next thing for the broadcast networks, they're going to give hours back to the affiliates," he said. "And I don't mean Fox or the CW." (He later added CBS to the list.)

Greenblatt also confirmed that an "L Word" spinoff pilot has been shot. The project is described as a gritty drama set at a women's prison.

Greenblatt said three guest stars — Laurie Metcalf, Melissa Leo and Famke Janssen — could become regulars if the project goes to series. (partialdiff)
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