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Will international buyers at MIPCOM this week buy The Affair or plead for Billions? In large part, it could depend on whether those buyers represent subscription VOD services, which are mushrooming worldwide and becoming a ready market for CBS programmers and distributors gathered in Cannes this week.
Armando Nunez, president and CEO of the CBS global distribution group, said in a joint keynote with Showtime Networks president David Nevins that a fast-changing domestic U.S. business was converging with the growing demands of SVODs proliferating around the world.
“U.S.-based SVODs that are going global, local SVOD services starting up in each country, SVOD services that are extensions of existing services, whether linear or digital, there’s super demand for high-end, premium content and it’s the type of content we do at Showtime that drives viewership and drives subscribers,” he argued.
Showtime’s Nevins said original series like Homeland, Ray Donovan, House of Lies, Shameless, Masters of Sex and Penny Dreadful were being eyeballed at the Cannes sales bazaar because traditional and upstart players each gained by having them on their schedules.
“Now as SVOD services are starting up, and as the traditional premium television in each market is having to compete against that, there’s demand for … addictive programming, because it sells subscriptions better than anything. I’m in the sweet spot, in the right spot at Showtime,” Nevins said.
The Showtime boss was quick to credit showrunners of his shows for his network’s success, and whom he claims to treat as individuals, not cogs in a machine.
“I’m not trying to make one showrunner fit in. I’ve been a producer, I approach the world still like a producer. So I engage really intensely with the showrunners and the actors for that matter of our shows,” Nevins said.
He added it’s not about simply handing showrunners money and then allowing them to go away and make their shows. “More often that not, it’s a daily interaction with a Sarah Treem, who does The Affair, or Michelle Ashford, who does Master of Sex,” Nevins added.
He reads all scripts and story outlines, and sees every cut, to stay on top of the creative process. But Nevins added that any creative dispute was more than likely to be resolved in favor of the showrunner and his or her vision.
“If I think they’re making a mistake, I will tell them to their face. But if it’s core to what you believe, to where you see the show going, I don’t expect to win,” Nevins said. And lead actors are also valued for the weight they carry on their shoulders.
“The lead actors of our shows… are powerful, intelligent people,” Nevins told the Cannes audience. “And they have a lot of responsibility. I treat them in a lot of the same ways I treat the showrunners. I give them a lot of say and responsibility,” he said.
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