As it faces more competition to streamers, Showtime is getting bigger—but not too big, execs stress.
Showtime increased its hours of original programming by 30% this year, with even more expansion planned for 2020, presidents of entertainment Jana Winograde and Gary Levine said today at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in LA.
Yet despite that growth, the network is positioning itself as a bespoke alternative to behemoths like Netflix.
“We compete by being the boutique option to the big box stores,” said Winograde. Even as Showtime adds content, “we still will be a small, boutique operation, and we’re never going to change that,” said Levine.
Unlike some of its rivals, “We don’t just dump a series, send an email and hope it connects,” said Levine, who called Showtime “an island of stability” in an era of consolidation and rebranding.
Talent and creatives are “longing for the attention and care that we take with our programming,” Levine said.
As scripted content and the outlets that offer it has exploded in the Peak TV era, Showtime is not only keeping pace but adding subscribers. Showtime now has over 27 million subscribers, which Winograde said is 2 million more than a year ago.
“As long as we can continue to do that and continue to engage our audience, we believe in our ability to compete,” said Winograde. “It’s hard to say, when is too much, too much?”
Showtime’s premium cable rivals are also bulking up in the face of increased competition. HBO expanded its original programming hours this year by 50%, while Starz has pivoted to targeting a worldwide “premium female audience.”
During their executive session, Levine and Wingrade joked that Showtime had created a new streaming platform, Showtime Maxi+Plus, a swipe at the upcoming HBO Max and all the OTT services with “Plus” in the name.
One of Showtime’s most popular series, Homeland, will debut its eighth and final season on Sunday, Feb. 9, returning after almost a two-year hiatus.
“Homeland is an ambitious series, especially in its final season,” said Levine. With filming in multiple countries, the show has “a very ambitious production schedule that has taken more time than we hoped it would.” However, “we’d rather have it good than fast.”
One of Showtime’s new series, the comedy On Becoming a God in Central Florida, was actually filmed for YouTube Premium before moving to the premium cable network.
“We don’t have an ego when it comes to what the entry point is. If it’s great … we’re going to put it on,” said Levine.
In other Showtime summer press tour news, the network picked up Season 2 of drama City of a Hill, starring Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge, which it said is averaging 3.5 million viewers per week across platforms.
Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot will star in and executive produce a Showtime limited series based on life of Hedy Lamarr.
Production will begin later this year in Budapest on Halo, Showtime’s long-gestating adaptation of the Xbox franchise.
“Our challenge was to take a video game and make it into a character drama that belongs on Showtime,” said Levine of the lengthy development process. The series is expected to debut in early 2021.
And while Shameless returns for Season 10 on Nov. 3, Showtime says the show could continue far beyond that.
“There’s still a lot of Shameless-ness left in Shameless,” said Levine, noting “the characters are as vibrant as ever. … I don’t know what the future holds, but the present is very exciting.”