TCA: 'The Enemy Is Predictability,' Says Showtime Boss

Showtime's David Nevins
Showtime's David Nevins
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A year and a half into his tenure as Showtime entertainment chief, David Nevins is clear on his mandate: relevance.

"I think relevance is a big deal for us, and I want to do shows that resonate in the wider culture. That was a big priority for me coming in," said Nevins during his stop on Thursday's Television Critics Association winter press tour, noting that shows such as Homeland and newcomer House of Lies fit that bill. "I think there's a huge opportunity to challenge the world that we live in, and timeliness is one of the things that distinguishes Showtime."

As for Showtime’s biggest competitor, HBO, Nevins wasn’t particularly interested in fueling the kind of public battle that headline-hungry reporters seek out. Instead, he noted that he is friendly with HBO's Sue Naegle, and the two discuss shows that they’re watching -- and presumably enjoying -- on their respective networks.

“They play their game and they do it very well, and we’re all trying to make noisy programming that sticks out,” he said, adding: “I’m comfortable with the game that we’re playing.” It’s a healthy stance, and one Nevins feels comfortable taking in part because their businesses often move in tandem care of the way cable is sold.

Among the other reasons: his network is enjoying record ratings – Homeland was Showtime's highest rated first season effort ever -- and has launched what he describes as “six successful freshman shows in a row.” What's more, Nevins is heading into the Golden Globes Sunday with eight nominations across five series, and the network has added about 2 million subscribers for a total of 21 million-plus subs over in the last year.

Looking ahead, Nevins assures the TV press that his schedule will continue to be filled with noisy programming. The summer will see the return of Episodes, a nine-episode season with a hefty marketing push, followed by another season of both Homeland and Dexter. Nevins reaffirmed that the plan is likely to wrap the latter after two more seasons, though there is always the possibility that that could change. 

As for Showtime's other fare, Nevins noted in a gaggle following his panel that “it’s a real possibility” that the upcoming season of long-running series Weeds could be its last. He has not yet made a decision – or he's not yet willing to share a decision, at least — on The Green Room, but has and had hoped to share the featured team on the second season of baseball’s The Franchise. He suggests that the team selected, which he won’t be able to reveal until the deals are in place, will make for a very interesting season.

Elsewhere on the schedule, Nevins is particularly interested in moving forward with branded, filmmaker-driven documentaries on iconic, culture-defining and perhaps controversial people, which he believes will help his network have an impact as well as stay both relevant and noisy. The push will begin with a trio of docs focused on Dick Cheney (from filmmaker R.J. Cutler), Richard Pryor (from Marina Zenovich) and Suge Knight (from Antoine Fuqua). He noted that he is a fan of having "renewable resources," and plans to add more if the initial batch performs well.

“To me, the enemy is boredom," added Nevins, reiterating his strategy. "The enemy is predictability."

Email: Lacey.Rose@thr.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose

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