Showtime has gone through some major changes in the past year, including rolling out a direct-to-consumer service last July to reach viewers who did not have a cable subscription. Now the premium cable network is preparing another ambitious move: changing the way it schedules shows to keep those new subscribers from losing interest.
Beginning this fall, Showtime will shift to a new premiere schedule where it will debut a new series almost every month, instead of debuting a cluster of shows once each quarter, to keep viewers continually engaged. As part of this move, the network is shifting the premiere of its most popular show, Homeland, from its usual fall position to next January.
While that delay might disappoint Homeland fans, David Nevins, Showtime Networks president and CEO had good news for them: Showtime is finishing up a deal to pick up the show for an additional two seasons, through Season 8, with star Claire Danes and showrunner Alex Gansa remaining with the series, he said.
"We now operate in an ecosystem where it's easier and easier to sign up, and turn us off. So I think there's a real premium on offering stuff all the time: What's the next new thing?" Nevins said, explaining the new strategy on a conference call with reporters. "I've been pushing to up our metabolism and our rate of introduction. You see [subscription] signups go up around premieres and finales, and the more premieres you have, the more hooks you have to drive sign ups, and that is the name of the game."
Nevins said that Showtime has a "highly curated" lineup, and the staggered release schedule will allow the network to give each premiere even more attention. "We are not in the churn and burn business, like some of our competitors," he said.
Ray Donovan will return on June 26, along with new drama Roadies, but when those shows conclude their summer runs, Showtime will roll out its new strategy. Masters of Sex will return for Season 4 on Sept. 11, Shameless (which usually airs in the winter) will debut Season 7 on Oct. 2 and The Affair is back for Season 3 on Nov. 20.
Then Homeland will pick up the baton in January. Early 2017 premieres will also include Season 2 of Billions, which is now the second most popular show on the network. And the much-anticipated revival of Twin Peaks will likely air in the second quarter of 2017, Nevins said.
Season 6 of Homeland, which will film in New York this summer, "deals with that miraculous moment in an American democracy when you have a peaceful transition of presidential power. The entire season takes place in the period in which its airing, in those 70 days between election day and the inauguration, when you're in that transition time when all the instruments of governmental power are being handed from one administration to another, and a lot of complications ensue," Nevins said. "Homeland has proven again and again an uncanny ability to reflect real world politics that we live in, in America, and also our very difficult place in a complicated 21st Century world, and it does it incredibly well."
Nevins was asked his thoughts about the possibility of CBS Corp. (which includes Showtime) and Viacom recombining, which is one rumored reason for the public battle over Viacom's future. "I don't think I'm going to touch that one," he said. "I have no particular insight to add on that subject."
Earlier today, Showtime announced it had picked up a new limited series Purity, starring Daniel Craig and based on the Jonathan Franzen novel. The 20-episode series will air over two seasons, and start filming in 2017.