David Nevins Touts More 'Star Trek,' Streaming Stats and Backend's Endurance
During an interview at a UBS-hosted conference, there was no mention of former boss Leslie Moonves.
Now holding the creative reins for all of CBS Corp., including the “Tiffany Network,” streamer All Access and his longtime home of Showtime, David Nevins on Tuesday afternoon gave his first true state of the union address at UBS’ Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, where he spoke confidently about his various brands, their surging output and why he wouldn’t want to be launching a new OTT service in 2019. (Axed boss Leslie Moonves, whose shoes Nevins has now partially filled, was never mentioned.)
Having expanded his purview past only Showtime, now holding the title of chief creative officer, CBS Corp., as well as chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks Inc., Nevins explained his new gig quite simply: “My job is to develop and bring in the best creative content for our networks and platforms. I think you’ll see a little bit more coordination in marketing and content acquisition. But my job is not to homogeneous. These brands need to have their own distinct identity.”
Speaking to the main three vehicles for distribution, as well as the in-house studio supplying so much of the content, during the 45-minute keynote, here’s what Nevins seemed most focused on.
This is obviously still the arena where Nevins is most-informed, having been the face of the premium outlet for eight years. Shoring up brand identity, at home and abroad, with original series is what he seems to consider among the biggest feats. “Five to seven years ago, our shows did great internationally, but they were completely disengaged from the Showtime brand,” he said of hits like Dexter and Weeds, which aired all over the place in other markets. Now, Ray Donovan, Billions and other Showtime efforts are packaged together. “Sky in the U.K. and Canal+ in France now market themselves as the home of Showtime. And we are going to start direct-to-consumer internationally,” said Nevins.
Direct-to-consumer at home in the U.S. is also surpassing expectations. “I don’t envy the guys starting from a standing start in 2019 or 2020,” he said. “We originally wanted 8 million subs by 2020 — we’re gonna beat that by a full year, at least.”
CBS All Access
Streaming subscription stats for Showtime and CBS All Access are now lumped together during earnings calls, so the specificity of who’s signed up for what will likely be a source of great speculation in the coming years. Still, it was talk of All Access that seemed to generate the most excitement from the exec. “We were the company that chose to not go into Hulu,” Nevins said of the streamer’s focus on keeping its broadcast shows on the branded portal. “I think history will show that as a very smart decision.”
On the originals front, Nevins gave some lip service to Jordan Peele’s upcoming Twilight Zone reboot and The Good Fight as well, but it was Star Trek and its upcoming sister series staring franchise vet Patrick Stewart where he claimed the real identity is being forged. “Star Trek Discovery season two is in a great place,” he said. “And there is huge anticipation for Picard [the Stewart vehicle]. That will [premiere] at the end of the year. And we’re doing these Star Trek short films in between.”
As for his broadcast network, Nevins said, “It’s the most mainstream network, and I don’t see that changing.” Despite CBS being in third place in the key demo of adults 18-49, down 17 percent from fall 2017, Nevins said he felt it “has had, arguably, the best fall of any network.” He pointed to the modest Sunday night launch God Friended Me as one example of that success. “It is showing all the signs you want to see in a freshman year.” said the exec. “It’s not a typical CBS procedural, and yet it feels like it fits incredibly well. You’re trying to make brand decisions and grow each brand organically.”
CBS is also where creatives still want to be, since the long-running nature of their shows means that backend can still be as lucrative as in the past. “Backend is not dead,” Nevins said. “The backend we’re able to generate on those platforms is unrivaled.”
One show with boffo backend, The Big Bang Theory, is about to conclude its wildly successful run. But Nevins is not worried about an heir, because he believes the network already has one in Young Sheldon, adding that it’s “not nearly as lead-in dependent as people might imagine.”
But for everyone, network or platform, TV is now a volume business, and CBS has not shied away from the trend. “Five years ago, CBS Corp. produced 33 [shows],” he said. “This year we’re producing 75 shows. And we’ve made that ramp while also producing great shows.”