Back at TCA’s winter press tour, I sat down with Showtime Networks President David Nevins for an Adweek Q&A that I banked for April, closer to when his spring shows — particularly Showtime’s new comedy, Happyish — were premiering. As April approached, I made arrangements for a quick followup interview with Nevins, to update a few topics we had discussed, including Showtime’s OTT plans.
It’s either a negotiation, or he’s had cold feet. But I am hopeful.
In addition to our Twin Peaks talk, Nevins also gave me a timetable on when Showtime will launch its standalone streaming service, talked about sticking with Happyish after last year’s death of original star Philip Seymour Hoffman and explained why he’ll never leave for a broadcast job like his predecessor, Robert Greenblatt. It’s a great, and unexpectedly newsy, interview; check it out!
Game of Thrones isn’t the only highly anticipated returning premium cable program based on a hugely popular book series with a rabid fan base. On April 4, Starz rolls out the second half of Outlander’s debut season. As I wrote at Adweek, the show — based on Diana Gabaldon’s historical/fantasy/romance novels — has finally brought a large female audience to the premium cable network, whose programs have tended to skew male.
And as Starz CEO Chris Albrecht notes, that highly engaged new audience has mobilized into a social marketing army for the network:
“If you go for a certain demo, then you have an audience that not only is going to come to watch the show, but they’re going to be the best marketing and promotional arm you could have,” said Albrecht, who had similar results last summer with Power, which is targeted to African-American viewers. “Because with social media, they’re talking about the show all the time to their friends, trying to get their friends to watch. So Outlander proved one more time that a core group of fans that are pleased are going to be a really powerful tool for the successful evolution of the show.”
The show’s popularity has also helped Starz grow to 23.3 million subscribers, and leapfrog Showtime to become the No. 2 premium network behind HBO.
Given the already overwhelming amount of quality TV, does anyone really want to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for even more of it? We’ll start to find out this weekend, as Cinemax premieres The Knick and Starz unveils Outlander. As I wrote at Quartz,
While the series are generating enthusiastic reviews (The Knick in particular), they will likely have a much tougher time drawing audiences than they would have just a couple years ago. Because both Starz and Cinemax are premium channels, sampling those shows means shelling out even more money each month to do so. And for those already on the hook for cable fees—for basic cable, HBO and Showtime—as well as payments for Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, it will be hard to justify the additional expense, particularly given that these networks have little to offer those new audiences beyond that single show.
Even those of us who write about TV for a living can no longer keep up, so it’s hard to believe that too many others can make the time — and find the money — for even more original content. Time is money, and when it comes to quality TV, do we have enough left of either? Starz and Cinemax certainly hope so.