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Screen Wars

Showtime’s recipe to win the screen wars

Kai Ryssdal Sep 16, 2014
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Screen Wars

Showtime’s recipe to win the screen wars

Kai Ryssdal Sep 16, 2014
HTML EMBED:
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Showtime President David Nevins spent years producing television shows for traditional networks before making the switch to a premium pay-model.

He says he likes the hand Showtime has been dealt. It network is able to keep viewers coming back (and paying up) for long-running hits like “Californication”, “Dexter” or “Weeds” and new successes like “Homeland” or “Masters of Sex” (and, very nearly, “True Detective”). That has to do with three specific practices:

Make addictive content

Nevins produced “Friday Night Lights” and “Arrested Development”, two shows that struggled on network television. At their heart, both were cable shows; a little too niche for broadcast, but addictive for their small audiences. Now, it’s much easier to monetize that passion through streaming than it was in years past.

“In premium TV, you get rewarded for shows like that, you get rewarded for the addictive shows,” Nevins says. “In the old days, they were the shows that sold really well on DVD but didn’t repeat well on the network and were always fighting for their life ratings-wise.”

Appeal to men and women

You don’t need to satisfy everybody all the time, a network like Showtime has to make shows that subscribers like enough to wait a year in between seasons.

“That’s why you want to really remain balanced, gender-wise, if you’re in pay cable because you don’t want either half of the household — either the male half or the female half —saying ‘Honey, why are we writing that check each month?’”

Stay on top of technology (but don’t worry too much about new models)

As paid TV gets more competitive thanks to new technology and new business models, it’s important that Showtime pivots at the right time.

“I want to make sure that we make the transitions to all the ways that people want to be able to consume us,” Nevins says. Still, while the delivery might change, more competition doesn’t mean anyone has to go out of business.

“That progression of new businesses from network TV to cable TV to premium cable TV to now all the online companies that are making content – they haven’t really made their predecessors go extinct,” Nevins says.

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