Basking In 'Homeland's' Halo

Showtime Chairman Blank Discusses Impact of Drama's Huge Emmy Night

Fresh off a big Emmy win for the hit drama series Homeland, Showtime Networks chairman and CEO Matt Blank reflected on how the show’s win for Outstanding Drama Series will affect Showtime’s overall brand. Blank talked to Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the network’s challenge to build on the network’s Emmy success — including Damian Lewis’ win for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series and Claire Danes’ victory for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. An edited transcript follows.

MCN: Were you surprised by the Emmy success of Homeland?

Matt Blank: I don’t think of it as being surprised. We certainly thought that [Homeland] was deserving, but it’s very hard for a freshman series to win an Emmy. I think everybody who won deserved to win, but it was a pleasant surprise that we were able to sweep the writing, acting and best drama categories.

MCN: So what does your Emmy success do for the overall Showtime brand?

MB: It really has been several years of great successes for Showtime with Golden Globe and Emmy nominations and some wins on each front, but for this show, at this point in time, to win is a real tipping point for Showtime. How quickly the show found its way into pop culture and was embraced by critics, and how quickly it found its place as one of the best shows on television, just made a tremendous difference for us. Then, when you get up at the Emmy Awards and you win the biggie for the first time in Showtime’s history, for a freshman series, it makes a real statement about the network and about the brand. We may have had some successes before, but I think this one puts us over the top.

MCN: How do you build on that success?

MB: I think we have been building on it. Over the past several years, we’ve had tremendous success with the shows we’ve had on the air and we’ve had great subscriber growth, and I think the best way to build on this particular show is the fact that we’re premiering the second season of the show (Sept. 30), and what better way to promote the series?

The second season seems to be when our shows really seem to grab a foothold, and now, coming off this Emmy win, there will be much more interest in the second season than before and, frankly, a lot more interest in the first season. I’m already getting the calls and letters from people requesting DVDs of the first season, to which my answer is, “Subscribe and watch it on-demand.” I don’t think you can put a monetary value on all of the attention the show is getting — it was on all the front pages of the newspapers. We are capitalizing on it, and I think our distributors are smart enough to capitalize on it. It’s a big show for them as well.

MCN: What does Showtime do now to find the next Homeland?

MB: The beauty of our model is that we don’t have to be pigeon-holed by the success of one show. You’ve already seen the talk about Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan for next year. These are two great hours that we expect to be successful in their own right, and we’ll just keep this going.

MCN: Does the success of Homeland now change your view at all toward the shows you target? Will you look for similar drama shows?

MB: No. What was missed [at the Emmys] was that we had loads of other nominations. Michael C. Hall once again for Dexter, Edie [Falco] again for Nurse Jackie; and it was great to see Don Cheadle get a [best actor in a comedy] nomination for another freshman show in House of Lies. So it’s not just Homeland that’s attracting this attention.

Obviously, we broke through with Homeland in a way that we’ve never done with other shows before, but I fully expect, when it’s awards time a year or two from now, you’re going to see a whole bunch of actors and writers and shows that you don’t know about today get this attention.

The reason I say Homeland is the tipping point is that for writers who have a great show idea, don’t you think Showtime is the place you want to bring it? I think that it affects us in so many ways. It continues to make us an early or first stop on the creative trail and it says to our affiliates that our business strategy to put all of our emphasis in original programming is working. I think it really is a point in time where this brand is as strong as any other brand in the entertainment space, and we’re going to take advantage of that in every way we can.