Showtime’s CEO Sets Twin Peaks’ Return and Explains How Streaming Changed the Network

18-episode series debuts May 21

Showtime's eagerly anticipated revival of David Lynch's Twin Peaks finally has a premiere date—Sunday, May 21.

The 18-episode limited series will debut that evening with a two-hour premiere, Showtime Networks president and CEO David Nevins told reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

The show's third and fourth episodes will also be available the same night after the premiere via Showtime's streaming platforms. 

The revival will consist of "18 unforgettable hours," said Nevins, who has seen the entire season. (He said Lynch, who directed every episode, provided donuts and coffee for him before each screening.) Calling Lynch "one of the great film masters of my lifetime," Nevins said, "I think the version of Twin Peaks you're going to see is the pure heroin version of David Lynch, and I'm very excited to be putting that out."

There are no plans for additional Twin Peaks seasons. "It's designed to be a closed-ended, one-time event," said Nevins.

While admitting there are "big expectations" for Twin Peaks, Nevins said he isn't sure how the show will perform on Showtime. "I have no idea what to expect in terms of ratings," he said. "I do think it will drive audience. The trick will be converting those people into longtime subscribers."

At the very least, Showtime is anticipating Twin Peaks' return will be a huge social media event. "It is hard to fathom what Twin Peaks in a social media universe will be, and we're really looking forward to the ride," said Gary Levine, president of programming. Added Nevins, "it rewards close watching."

Thanks in large part to Twin Peaks, 2017 is "shaping up to be a defining year for Showtime," said Nevins. The network's streaming, over-the-top subscription service, which launched in 2015 and now has more than 1 million subscribers, "has rocketed past our initial expectations," he said.

The streaming service had its most sign-ups in a single day on Election Day, as audiences were eager to watch Stephen Colbert's live election special that evening. Nevins expects to beat that number this weekend in advance of Homeland's season premiere. "Each time a show comes on, there's a surge of sign-ups," he said.

Nevins also noted that sign-ups skyrocket each year in the six weeks after Christmas, as viewers are looking for content to stream on their new devices. That's why Showtime aired The Affair during the holidays, as opposed to wrapping its season in mid-December as the network used to do.

The streaming service has also given Shameless its highest-rated season ever in Season 7 thanks to the younger audiences coming to the show after subscribing to the streaming service, said Nevins.

Between its election season documentary, The Circus, and its Colbert election night special, "the news currency of our programming is at an all-time high," said Nevins. Now the network is looking to make even more of a political splash by finding its own John Oliver or Samantha Bee.

"We have thought about it, and we're figuring some things out right now," said Nevins.