Multiplatform Business Is ‘Incremental to the Extreme’

SHOWTIME’S BLANK: OWNING CONTENT IS CRUCIAL
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NEW YORK — When Dexter, the Showtime drama series about a forensic scientist-turned-serial killer, premiered in 2006, subscribers viewed episodes live on Showtime about 70% to 75% of the time.

By the time the series ended last September, after eight seasons, about 70% to 75% of viewing was being done on a delayed basis. Ratings in the final season were 300% of what they were in season one.

“We see that the impact of multiplatform on our business is incremental — incremental to the extreme,” Matt Blank, chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks, said last Wednesday (June 11) during the lead keynote at a conference on the topic.

“That’s the graph you want to carry with you everywhere you go when you talk about this,” Blank told Multichannel News editor in chief Mark Robichaux at The Business of Multiplatform TV summit at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel, presented by MCN and NewBay Media sister publications B&C and TV Technology. “These are enabling technologies, and they’re particularly enabling when you have something you really want to see and a brand that’s really strong, like Showtime at the moment.”

Showtime owns Dexter, and Blank said the revenue it earned from home video, international sales and streaming after its run ended was “a gigantic number” that “adds tremendous value to Showtime as a company going forward.”

The numbers demonstrate why owning content is important. But Showtime doesn’t own the CIA drama Homeland, a signature show that comes from Fox 21. “I don’t think anyone would say they’d pass up the opportunity to have Homeland” on their network just because another studio owns it, he said.

That said, Showtime has a record of marketing shows well and keeping them on the air for multiple seasons, Blank said, naming Weeds and Nurse Jackie (both from Lionsgate) among them. “That now gives us more bargaining power” to say to a studio, for example, that Showtime will greenlight a show but also take an ownership stake in it.

“As we go forward, you’re going to see us participating or owning outright most of what we put on the air in terms of our scripted series,” he said.

Blank was asked several times about the impact of competition from services such as Netflix. He said he once used the term “frenemies” when he was arguing with Netflix chief Reed Hastings, a term Hastings has also embraced. Streaming services can compete with premium channels for subscribers, and they pay content owners (including Showtime) for the right to stream their shows later.

The more new distributors that come along, the better it is for strongly branded providers that have great content, Blank said, adding that it will be interesting to see what new businesses are created when something like AT&T and DirecTV’s proposed combination comes about and creates a big platform that could inspire new ideas.

CBS-owned Showtime likes its current business model, tied in with multichannel providers. “We’re still growing,” Blank said. “New distributors are always important to us.”

The addition of satellite- and telco-TV platforms were big pluses to Showtime, he added. “ I think we’ll be successful taking advantage of whatever new people knock on our door at some point in time.”

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